Detroit Asset Forfeiture Lawyer
It’s a common practice when you’re convicted of a drug offense for the government to seize any of your assets that they can even loosely connect to the drug crime. Types of property commonly seized in drug cases includes:
- Money in bank accounts
- Business equipment
Section 333.7522 of the Michigan Public Health Code allows property to be seized when:
- The seizure is in connection with an arrest
- The seizure is pursuant to a search warrant
- The seizure is pursuant to an inspection under an administrative inspection warrant
- There’s a prior forfeiture judgment against the property
- There is probable cause to believe the property is dangerous to the public, either directly or indirectly
- There is probable cause to believe the property was used in violation of Michigan law
When your property is seized, the government then typically sells it at an auction and keeps the proceeds — and the government doesn’t have to compensate you for the property it took. Reports have shown that a significant portion of the proceeds of asset forfeiture goes back to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to the tune of tens of millions of dollars each year just in Michigan. If you were convicted of a drug crime, you have little recourse when the government seizes your property — and the government will look for reasons to seize your property when you’ve been convicted of a drug offense.
However, your property could be the subject of asset forfeiture even if you personally had no involvement in any kind of drug activity. If the government can connect your property to drug activity — even if you had no part in it — the government can seize your property and attempt to have it declared forfeit through a process known as civil asset forfeiture. If a family member or friend used your house or your car for a drug transaction, you could face losing your house or car through civil asset forfeiture.
Criminal Asset Forfeiture
Under Section 333.7521 of the Michigan Public Health Code, the kinds of property that may be subject to forfeiture include:
- Cash or any item of value used to pay for drugs or traded for drugs
- Vehicles, vessels, or aircraft used to transport drugs or in connection with drug transactions
- Drugs, synthetic drugs, and imitation drugs
- Prescription forms use to commit drug offenses
- Raw materials or equipment used in drug manufacturing or drug trafficking
- Drug paraphernalia
Even money that is sitting near any property that is subject to forfeiture can be presumed to be forfeit under the statute. Say you have cash to pay your rent and that’s sitting near a scale that police and prosecutors claim was used to weigh drugs for processing or sale, the statute would allow the cash for your rent to be seized — unless you can prove with clear and convincing evidence that the cash isn’t subject to forfeiture.
When the government wants to take your property in connection with a drug charge, it just has to show to a court that:
- A crime happened
- The property was seized around the time the crime happened
Unlike having to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the alleged drug offense, asset forfeiture only requires that prosecutors prove that the property should be forfeit by a preponderance of the evidence, which means they only have to show that it’s more likely than not that the property was connected to the criminal activity.
If you want to keep your property, the burden falls on you to prove that your property wasn’t connected to the alleged crime and that you should be allowed to keep your cash, house, or car.
Civil Asset Forfeiture
Sometimes you may find the state wants to take your property even when you haven’t been charged with, much less convicted of, a drug crime. The civil asset forfeiture process allows prosecutors to bring proceedings to have your property declared forfeit when there’s a belief that the property is connected with a drug crime. Again, the standard is a preponderance of the evidence, not reasonable doubt.
When forfeiture proceedings are initiated, the government has to notify you and you have the right to request a hearing. However, because it’s a civil process, you do not have the right to a court-appointed lawyer, although you can hire a lawyer as long as you’re able to pay for representation yourself.
Often, when you try to fight civil asset forfeiture, the government will try to get you to settle the case so that you only get back part of your cash or part of the proceeds from selling your property. An experienced Detroit asset forfeiture lawyer with experience handling these types of cases can help you understand the process, protect your rights, and help you to get the best possible outcome in your asset forfeiture proceeding.
Defending Against Asset Forfeiture
When you stand to lose your cash, car, house, or other property to asset forfeiture, it’s important that you have an experienced Detroit drug lawyer on your side who will work aggressively to help you keep your property. If your asset forfeiture proceeding is pending in the Detroit area, an attorney who knows the local courts, prosecutors, and judges and how forfeiture cases are handled will be invaluable in protecting your assets.
It may seem daunting to face an asset forfeiture proceeding, but it’s not hopeless. You do have rights and some possible recourse — particularly when you haven’t been charged with a crime. If you have been charged with a crime, a skilled Detroit asset forfeiture lawyer may be able to help you fight the charge, which in turn may help you keep your property.
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