Routinely, individuals in the U.S. have property taken from them under “Asset Forfeiture” laws and are unaware of their rights.  Civil judicial forfeiture does not require a criminal conviction, and is a powerful legal tool used by law enforcement and Federal Agencies to seize property that is involved in a crime. Fines and forfeitures have become a key source of revenue, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

The majority of federal forfeiture cases are uncontested when there is a related criminal case. Administrative forfeiture occurs when property is seized but no one files a claim to contest the seizure. Property that can be administratively forfeited includes merchandise prohibited from importation; a conveyance used to import, transport, or store a controlled substance; a monetary instrument; or other property that does not exceed $500,000 in value. Federal law imposes strict deadlines and notification requirements in the administrative forfeiture process. If the seizure is contested, then the U.S. government is required to use either criminal or civil judicial forfeiture proceedings to gain title to the property.

What is the difference between Asset Seizure and Asset Forfeiture?

Asset Seizure occurs when the Government takes position of your property. However, different Government agencies may have different seizure proceedings. Click the hyperlinks to learn the difference between a seizure under CAFRA’s  rules under 18 U.S.C. 983 and a seizure by U.S. customs.

Asset Forfeiture is the legal process used by the Government to take ownership of property it has seized. Civil Asset Forfeiture proceedings charge the property itself with involvement in a crime. Therefore, the owner of the property doesn’t even need to be guilty of a crime to have his/her asset forfeited.

Recent Supreme Court Ruling

On February 20, 2019, The Supreme Court of the United States decided Timbs v. Inidiana. The Court ruled in favor of Tyson Timbs, who bought and transported $225.00 worth of heroin using his car. The maximum fine for the drug charge to which he plead guilty in 2015 was $10,000. The state of Indiana sought civil forfeiture of Timbs’s $42,000 Land Rover, charging that it had been used to transport the heroin. The Supreme Court found that the imposition of such fine was excessive and ruled that state governments must comply with the Eighth Amendment’s ban on excessive fines.

How this ruling affects you?

This decision could restrain the state seizure of property from criminal suspects. The Supreme Court said that the Excessive Fines Clause was an incorporated protection that applied to the states as a result of the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The Supreme Court’s holding is a first step toward transforming the Eighth Amendment into a tool to combat the proliferation of fines around the country. Government Asset forfeiture is more common than what you might think.

Do you know what to do if your property is seized?

Often, we encounter people whose currency has been seized at the airports for failure to report it, or merchandise has been seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and they do not know what to do. If that’s your case contact Diaz Trade Law for more information.