The Law Office of Smith and White, PLLC zealously defends individuals faced with criminal charges and criminal investigations in Seattle, Tacoma and throughout Washington. That defense includes representing our clients' best interests in cases where private property has been seized in a civil or criminal forfeiture case. A forfeiture is based on federal or state law enforcement authorities declaring certain property to be directly connected to a specific crime. This allows those agencies to seize, and assume ownership of valuables like a house, money, jewelry, computers and cars. Forfeiture occurs most frequently in situations where the defendant is being charged, or investigated, in a drug, a money laundering or a racketeering influence and corruption (RICO) case.
Criminal Asset Forfeiture
If you have been charged with a crime, federal and state law enforcement can file a forfeiture action in connection with the criminal case. For example, if you are arrested for growing marijuana in your basement, then a criminal forfeiture can be added to the drug charges. Law enforcement will seize all property of value while the case is being tried, such as the house, money, computers and cars. If you are found guilty of the criminal charges, then the courts may decide in favor of forfeiting your property to the law enforcement agency that seized it.
Civil Asset Forfeiture
A civil forfeiture is also filed by law enforcement, but it does not require a criminal charge. In this case, law enforcement must prove that the property is somehow connected to criminal behavior. For example, if law enforcement is not able to prove that you have committed a crime, but they can prove that your property is directly connected to money laundering activities, they may be awarded a civil forfeiture and assume ownership of the seized property. However, in Washington it is possible to defend against a civil asset forfeiture and if successfully done, the agency requesting forfeiture is required to pay attorney fees for the claimant.
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