California Asset Forfeiture Law Attorneys
Asset forfeiture is one of the most drastic things the government can do. Under California asset forfeiture law, the state can take away your property if you have been convicted of a crime and they can prove in court that:
- The property was used in commission of a crime; or
- The property was obtained as the result of this criminal activity
Asset seizure can cause serious financial hardship, and it takes an experienced California criminal defense attorney to protect your rights.
In America, asset forfeiture is a holdover from English law. During prohibition, forfeiture laws were frequently utilized by the government to seize distilleries used by bootleggers. Concerns over international drug trade led the federal government to pass the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, which amended RICO organized crime statutes and dramatically increased the government’s ability to seize property that’s suspected of being gained through illicit means.
In response to this federal legislation, California and many other states expanded their own asset seizure laws. Under California law, local law enforcement agencies are allowed to keep most forfeited assets. Forfeited assets are distributed in the following manner:
- 1% to nonprofit agencies
- 10% to prosecutors who worked on the case
- 24% to the state’s general fund
- 65% to law enforcement agencies that participated in the seizure
It’s more difficult to seize assets under California law than under federal law. When they are unable to hold on to seized assets under state law, local law enforcement officials will often use the federal government’s equitable sharing policy to bypass California’s forfeiture laws. Under the equitable sharing policy, the federal government can take ownership of the seized assets and then return as much as 80 percent of the value of the seized assets back to state agencies.
People who are convicted of drug-related offenses and organized crime are most likely to be subject to asset forfeiture, but it can be used in any type of criminal proceeding, such as theft, money laundering, cybercrime, or fraud.
California law enforcement agents can seize a person’s property after you have been convicted of a crime if they can convince a court that the property was used in that crime, or if it was acquired with the proceeds from illegal activity. The government may seize your property by taking physical possession of it, putting banks on notice to hold your accounts, or by recording forfeiture notices against a piece of real estate you own.
Under California asset seizure law, the government has the right to take away your property even if it isn’t contraband, such as illegal drugs or weapons. For example, they may try to prove that the asset was exchanged for an illegal drugs or given to a person as a form of payment for committing a crime.
The government can even take away a person’s home if they can convince a court that it was the site of criminal activity, such as manufacturing or distributing drugs. They can take away a person’s automobile if it was used in the commission of a crime, such as transporting drugs. The types of assets that have been seized under California forfeiture laws include:
- Real estate
- Stocks, securities, and other financial assets
Law enforcement officials may seize property if they have a warrant, but they can only take ownership of the property after conviction. When a search or an arrest is made, police may try to convince you to sign a document saying you have no interest in the seized assets. They may even threaten to arrest you if you refuse to renounce ownership of the seized property.
Don’t sign any documents and ask to speak with your attorney right away. Keep any records you have that can demonstrate that the seized assets were legally obtained, and have your attorney review these records.
If your assets have been seized, you only have 30 days to file a petition with the court. In these cases, your criminal defense attorney will check the government’s legal notice to make sure they only took the assets that were mandated by a court order.
The government has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the property they seized is subject to forfeiture. An experienced California criminal defense attorney will force them to provide extensive evidence to demonstrate their case while offering plausible evidence to disprove their arguments.
If you are facing asset forfeiture, there’s no time to lose. Contact our outstanding asset forfeiture defense team at Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP today. Call (213) 688-0460 to schedule a FREE consultation. We’re here to fight for your rights.
Recent Case Results
- Complete Dismissal of Molestation Charges
Attorney Mark Werksman’s 29 year old client was falsely accused of molesting two neighborhood children and was subsequently charged with felony child molestation, with a significant prison sentence hanging over his head should he be convicted. Instead, at the preliminary hearing Werksman was able to convince the court to grant his client a complete dismissal of any charges.
- Decision Set Aside
Client, a college student in a faulty Title IX case, was awarded $130,000 in attorney fees.
- Probation with No Jail Time for Drug Money Laundering Charge
Wilmington man accused in New York federal court of laundering drug money through the sale of laptop computers. Mark was able to get the case transferred to federal court in Los Angeles, where he convinced the United States Attorney to reduce the charges. His client was sentenced to probation with no jail time on a misdemeanor conviction.