What is Asset Forfeiture?
Asset forfeiture can occur in two different scenarios. One is where a crime has been committed. In cases involving criminal activity, the police will seize property because it was involved in the commission of a crime, or because it was the product of criminal activity.
The second scenario occurs when the government seizes assets (most commonly cash) because you are suspected of having committed a crime. In these situations, your property may be taken from you, even if you are not arrest.
Asset Forfeiture Involving Criminal Activity
If the government suspects you have committed a crime, the government may attempt to seize any assets, proceeds, or tools used to commit the crime.
For example: Brad uses his car to make drug deals at casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. Brad has used the money from his drug dealing to purchase himself a new Cadillac SUV. Brad uses his new Cadillac to sell more drugs. Brad also uses the money to purchase himself a new iPhone and a new iPad. One night, Brad does a drug deal with an undercover cop and gets charged with Drug Trafficking and Drug Possession. In this example, the police could attempt to seize Brad’s SUV, his iPhone and his iPad because he used the SUV to transport and sell the drugs, and he used the money he made from dug sales to purchase the iPhone and the iPad.
Under Nevada’s asset forfeiture laws, people can be required to forfeit their ownership of any property that is connected to any criminal activity. This includes assets that were used to commit the crime, as well as assets purchased with money made from any felony activity.
I’ve Been Arrested – Will I have to Forfeit my Property?
Asset forfeiture is most common in cases involving racketeering, drug offenses, robbery, burglary, and white-collar crimes. Asset forfeiture is rare in cases involving misdemeanor offenses. To determine if asset forfeiture is a concern for your case, you should call us and discuss your case with one of our criminal defense attorneys. Each case is unique, and the specific facts and circumstances of your situation will make asset forfeiture more or less likely.
My Friend Used my Car and Committed a Crime – Am I Going to Lose my Car?
In cases involving unknown criminal activity, the owner of the property involved is not likely to be at risk of losing their Property. However, this depends on whether the property owner knows of the criminal activity.
For example: Susan and Tonya are best friends and decide to take a road trip to Las Vegas. Susan and Tonya travel to Las Vegas in Susan’s car. While in Las Vegas, Tonya asks to borrow the Susan’s car to meet and old friend. Susan says sure and decides to stay at the casino and gamble while Tonya goes to see her friend. Tonya uses Susan’s car to travel to her ex-husbands house to burglarize his home and take stuff she felt she should have been awarded in their divorce. Tonya gets arrested and Susan is scared the police might seize her car. Here, Susan had no idea that Tonya was using the car for any illegal activity, so it is very unlikely that the police would try and seize Susan’s car. After all, Susan was not involved and she had no knowledge of the crime.
On the other hand, if Tonya told Susan of her plan, and Susan pretended to not about Tonya’s criminal activity, Susan might be at risk of losing her car.
In every asset forfeiture case, you should discuss your case with one our experienced criminal defense attorneys; but generally speaking, if you did not know that your property was being used in the commission of a crime, you are likely not at risk of losing your property.
I Haven’t Committed a Crime – Why was my Property Taken by Police? And How do I get it Back?
The examples above all assume that someone involved committed a crime. However, many people are shocked to learn that property can be seized by the government even when no crime has been committed.
One of the most common non-criminal seizures that occurs in Las Vegas is when someone travels with a large amount of cash money through McCarran International Airport (LAS). It is not a crime to travel with cash money. However, many travelers encounter a situation where their cash money is inspected by TSA and are told there are no problems. The traveler is sent on their way, only to later have their cash seized by another government agency such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Drug Enforcement Administration, or United States Customs and Border Patrol prior to boarding their flight.
In these cases, agents may approach you at the gate while you wait to board your flight. Agents often take large sums of cash money from people without explanation. The agent who takes your money will only give you a receipt for “one bag of currency.” The agent will not count the money. The receipt will most likely not have a case number, an amount, or any information on what to do next. Fortunately, the attorneys at The Wright Law Group, P.C. are experienced with these types of situations, and we can help you navigate the process, and many times, we can help you get your money back.
What happens after my money is taken?
Approximately 30 days after your money is seized by airport officials, you will receive a letter in the mail. Most often, this letter will be from United States Customs and Border Patrol. The letter will include a case number, the dollar amount of the money that was taken, and it will include other instructions on how you can proceed.
It is very important that you contact a lawyer right away. There is only a limited amount of time for you to challenge the seizure of your money. You should speak with an experienced asset forfeiture attorney before you respond to this letter. The letter you receive from United States Customs and Border Patrol will include options for a “Petition,” an “Offer in Compromise,” “Court Action,” and other options as well. Many travelers will election the option to file a “Petition” because the letter suggests that this is the best option to have your money returned to you. However, in many cases, these Petitions are denied. In fact, in most cases, “Court Action” is the best option to getting the money returned. It is a lot easier for United States Customs to justify keeping your money if you do not challenge the seizure in court. However, most people do not select the option for “Court Action” because “Court Action” is a more complex process involving the United States Attorneys Office in federal court.
Many traveler’s will try and recover their money by filing a “Petition” only to be dismayed when the Petition is denied. After having their “Petition” denied, people often call asking what can they do now? The truth is – it is significantly harder to recover your money after a “Petition” is denied. Contacting an attorney and discussing your options for using the courts to secure the return of your seized money is always the best option.
What should I do now?
If you have had property seized by a law enforcement or administrative agency, call The Wright Law Group, P.C. right away. You may have options to have your property returned to you; but in many cases, the amount of time you have to challenge a seizure is limited. Waiting too long to contact an attorney can cost you your chance to challenge the seizure.
Don’t wait. If you or someone you know has had their property taken because of a criminal case, or because you were falsely accused of committing a crime, set up a meeting with The Wright Law Group, P.C. today. Our lawyers have helped others recover wrongfully seized property and we can help you too. Call us now at (702) 405-0001. Our consultations are always free and confidential.