Integrity. Professionalism. Attention to Detail.

  1. Home
  2.  » 
  3. Practice Areas
  4.  » 
  5. Criminal Defense
  6.  » Federal & State Civil Asset Forfeiture & Seizure

Federal And State Civil Asset Forfeiture And Seizure

“Asset forfeiture” refers to The Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, which allows state and federal law enforcement agents to seize certain assets and attempt to prove that there is sufficient evidence that those assets were either used, or intended to be used, to commit a crime or are the proceeds of a crime. Such assets include the following

  • Cash and bank deposits
  • Motor vehicles and boats
  • Stocks and bonds
  • Real estate

An asset forfeiture case is a civil action held in civil court, with the state or federal government having a burden of proof and is a separate matter from any criminal case that may also have been brought against you. Under Florida law, you have the due process right to challenge an asset seizure and make the government prove that it is entitled to keep your property.

Some defenses the trial attorneys at Bernhardt Riley may raise on your behalf are as follows:

  • Legitimate source defense
  • Innocent owner defense
  • Commingled asset defense
  • Notice requirement defense
  • Statute of limitations defense
  • Eight Amendment excessive fines defense

If the government proves its civil asset forfeiture case against you, your property can be sold at auction or used by the governmental agency that seized the property. The following are examples of assets forfeited relating to specific crimes:

  • Money obtained in or connected with drug trafficking cases (i.e., cocaine or marijuana trafficking)
  • Automobiles, boats, homes or businesses used to commit the crimes of drug trafficking or fraud cases
  • Money obtained in or connected with fraud cases (i.e., insurance fraud, mortgage fraud or Medicare fraud)
  • Money seized in money laundering cases
  • Automobiles, boats, homes and jewelry purchased with money obtained in drug trafficking or fraud cases

After law enforcement has seized your property, you have the right to file a written request for an adversarial preliminary hearing. This request needs to be filed with the city or county attorney within 15 calendar days of receiving the notice and must be made in writing by certified mail, return receipt requested. After the government commences a civil forfeiture action, it is important to act quickly and retain an attorney to file a verified claim on your behalf and/or an administrative claim with the seizing agency.

Our trial attorneys at Bernhardt Riley can help you properly file a verified claim that is distinct and separate from filing an administrative claim with the seizing agency under 18 U.S.C. § 983(a)(2). Let our civil asset forfeiture attorneys at Bernhardt Riley defend your civil forfeiture action and help you get your property back.