Asset Forfeiture Defense
In addition to facing criminal penalties, a person convicted of or merely suspected of a crime may be forced to forfeit certain assets. Under state and federal laws, governmental agencies are permitted to seize any assets that they believe are related to the commission of a crime or were obtained through criminal activity. Although the law permits the government to seize people’s assets, individuals faced with potential asset forfeiture have important rights. You can fight to retain your property with the assistance of our Tacoma asset forfeiture defense lawyers.
At the Law Offices of Smith & White, PLLC, we are proficient in contesting asset forfeiture. We regularly represent individuals in these matters throughout Pierce, King, Kitsap, and Thurston Counties. We are mindful that many people seeking assistance with asset forfeiture defense have lost some or all of their property. Therefore, we take asset forfeiture cases on a contingency basis, so there is no cost to our clients.Washington Asset Forfeiture Laws
Although assets can be seized in connection with criminal convictions, the majority of asset seizures are civil in nature. Washington’s civil forfeiture laws allow the government to seize property that it believes is connected to criminal activity in a civil proceeding. Most often, Washington civil asset forfeitures are pursued under Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 69.50.505. Under this provision, numerous assets can be seized from a person who is charged with or suspected of a drug offense, including controlled substances, raw materials used to create controlled substances, vehicles used to aid in the sale of controlled substances, and any money or securities involved in or obtained from a controlled substance crime. Real estate also can be seized under 69.50.505.
Property can be seized under other statutory provisions, and our asset forfeiture defense attorneys can assist Tacoma residents in these situations as well. For example, under RCW 10.105.010, property can be seized if it was used or intended to be used in the commission of a felony, or if it was a reward or compensation for committing a felony.Asset Forfeiture Defense
Under Washington law, there are numerous defenses that a person potentially can raise in civil forfeiture proceedings. For example, under the innocent owner defense, the person can argue that the property in question was obtained through legal means or that he or she did not permit the property to be used to engage in criminal activity. A person can also fight asset forfeiture by showing that the statute failed to comply with the notice and deadline requirements set forth under the law. Under both RCW 10.105.010(3) and RCW 69.50.505(3), the government must notify a person of the seizure of his or her assets within 15 days of the seizure. If the government fails to provide proper notice, the seizure may be improper.
Our Tacoma asset forfeiture defense attorneys also may be able to defend against asset forfeiture by showing that the state lacks the evidence needed to seize or keep an individual’s assets. The government agency that seizes a person’s property must have probable cause to believe that the property is related to criminal activity or was involved in a crime prior to seizing the property. If the entity that seized a person’s assets cannot meet this burden, the seizure may be improper. Similarly, to retain a person’s property, the government must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the property was used to perpetrate a crime or was obtained through criminal acts. Although the government’s burden of proof in asset forfeiture cases is not as high as the burden in criminal cases, it is still a meaningful burden. If the government fails to meet this burden, a person may be able to successfully argue for the return of his or her property. Speak with a Knowledgeable Washington Attorney Regarding Your Options
Asset forfeiture is often unjust, and the process of fighting for the return of your property can be complicated and extended. The criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Smith & White, PLLC will work diligently to help prove that your assets were inappropriately seized. We work on a contingency basis, which means that there is no cost to you unless your assets are recovered. We have an office in Tacoma, and we can meet clients by appointment at our second office in Vashon. You can contact us at 253-203-1645 or through the form online to set up a meeting with an asset forfeiture defense lawyer in the Tacoma area.