Civil Asset Forfeiture

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Hidalgo County Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney

What is a Civil Asset Forfeiture?

A civil asset forfeiture is a legal means which allows law enforcement to seize property which they assert was involved in certain criminal activity. Court judicial forfeiture does not require a criminal action but is rather a proceeding filed in court against the property in question. Administrative forfeiture can occur without the necessity of court involvement.

Civil asset forfeiture laws have been around for several decades in Hidalgo County and in other communities throughout Texas. Originally intended to bring down organized criminal operations by seizing their assets, these programs have become subject to abuse by law enforcement agencies and prosecutors.

Unfortunately, innocent people lose their property due to lack of knowledge of these laws and the proper procedures to challenge them. One of the main issues with forfeiture laws is that you can lose your property—even without being convicted of a crime.

What Can Be Seized in Civil Asset Forfeiture?

This type of forfeiture is used to seize such things as merchandise that is prohibited from being imported, property that was used to transport, store, or import a controlled substance, monetary instruments and other property worth $500,000 or less. When people are criminally charged in federal court, they may often receive a notice of forfeiture for certain types of property seized during the investigation.

Under civil asset forfeiture law, the government is allowed to seize:

  • Property which has been used in a transaction which violates the law
  • Anything of value which was intended to be traded in exchange for a controlled substance
  • Any financial assets or proceeds which were used in the exchange of a controlled substance
  • Any items or assets which were used to violate drug laws

When a forfeiture notice is received, you will have a time frame within which they are able to file an objection. If you object to an intended forfeiture, you will need to hire a Hidalgo County criminal defense lawyer to establish a strong forfeiture defense. Although it may seem difficult, it is possible to successfully defend against forfeiture of property.

Civil Forfeiture Laws

According to Chapter 59 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, contraband subject to seizure and sale is any real or personal property used or intended to be used in the commission of specific designated felonies and misdemeanors. The statute also allows civil forfeiture of contraband which was bought using money obtained in the commission of certain designated felonies and misdemeanors or used to facilitate the commission of those crimes.

The following is the list of criminal offenses designated as authorizing civil forfeiture:

  • First- and second-degree felonies
  • Drug charges
  • Burglary
  • Felony DUI if there are prior convictions
  • Computer crimes
  • Money laundering
  • Identity theft
  • Evading arrest
  • Criminal trespass
  • Various weapons charges

A civil forfeiture may occur with something as routine as a vehicle stop for a traffic violation. After informing you that you committing an offense, the police officer may ask for permission to search your vehicle. If you consent to the search, anything considered evidence of a crime or contraband may be seized.

Fortunately, U.S. citizens are entitled to due process under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which allows those who have been victims of police seizure an opportunity for a hearing. A civil forfeiture lawyer knows how to force the government to prove that your property is considered contraband within the definition of the law.

Facing Forfeiture in Hidalgo County?

An individual whose personal property is being forfeited to the state is likely the subject of some type of criminal charges. In addition to a criminal defense attorney, some individuals choose to enlist the help of a separate attorney to handle their forfeiture defense. We can offer you both forms of legal representation and advocate for your best interest.

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