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Asset Forfeiture Procedures

Criminal Defense Attorneys Assisting People in Tacoma and Surrounding Communities

Under Washington law, the government is permitted to seize a person’s assets if it believes that the assets are connected to the commission of a crime or if the owner of the property was convicted of a crime. Although asset seizure and forfeiture arise out of allegedly criminal acts, most asset forfeiture proceedings are civil in nature and proceed as administrative hearings. Asset forfeiture procedures involve a complex interplay between civil and criminal laws. Thus, your first step in defending against the seizure of your property should involve consulting a skilled Tacoma asset forfeiture defense lawyer. At the Law Offices of Smith & White, PLLC, our seasoned attorneys will fight to help you retain your property. We regularly assist people in asset forfeiture matters in cities in Pierce, King, Kitsap, and Thurston Counties.

Washington Criminal and Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws

In Washington, there are two avenues through which the government can seize your assets. First, the government can seize your assets if you are charged with or convicted of certain crimes. Washington law also permits the government to seize assets that it believes are related to or obtained through criminal behavior, even if criminal charges have not been filed. For example, under Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 10.105.010, the government can take any property that was used or intended for use in the commission of a felony. Any property seized under RCW 10.105.010 will not be forfeited, however, unless you are convicted of a crime. Additionally, pursuant to RCW 69.50.505, the government can seize a person's assets if the government suspects that the assets were either derived from or used in the commission of a drug crime. Assets that can be seized include money, real estate, vehicles, and various types of personal property.

Civil Asset Forfeiture Procedures

The notice and filing requirements for civil asset forfeiture under RCW 69.50.505 are clearly delineated under the statute. After property is seized, the law enforcement agency that seized the property must provide notice of the seizure to the owner of the property and anyone who has a known right or interest in the property. The owner or other interested party must then advise the law enforcement agency in writing that he or she wishes to contest the seizure. This notification must be made within 45 days if personal property was seized, or 90 days if real property was seized. If the owner or other interested party does not respond within the specified time frame, he or she will have waived any right to the property, and the property will be forfeited.

If an individual notifies the seizing law enforcement agency in writing of his or her ownership of or interest in the property, a hearing will be held, during which anyone with a claim to the property will be afforded a right to present his or her case. It is important to note that the hearing is not a criminal trial but is an administrative proceeding governed by the Administrative Proceeding Act. In some cases, however, a person claiming a right to the property can remove the case to a civil court.

In all hearings under RCW 69.50.505, the law enforcement agency must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the property seized is subject to forfeiture. If your property has been seized, you have the right to hire an attorney to represent you at any forfeiture hearing. Since the stakes are so high, you should not hesitate to exercise this right.

Contact a Tacoma Attorney to Understand Your Options

Washington’s civil asset forfeiture laws clearly define the procedures for contesting asset forfeiture. Failing to comply with asset forfeiture procedures can severely undermine your property rights. The experienced asset forfeiture defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Smith & White, PLLC can develop a strategic plan to help you seek to retain your property. Our office is located in Tacoma, and we are available by appointment at our satellite office in Vashon. You can contact us through our online form or at 253-203-1645 to schedule a consultation regarding your needs.

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I was represented by James White and have been nothing but satisfied with the outcome. Jame is very efficient and eliminates much of the stress that the judicial system can place on an offender. I am very grateful to have such a great attorney and owe him my gratitude for helping me when times were rough. Not only is he professional, but he is also someone you can talk to on a personal level. I highly recommend James White and would undoubtedly use him again in the future. If you are in search of an attorney, do yourself a favor and have the law offices of Smith & White represent you. Mike D.
I contacted James after my charge for reckless endangerment, and right from the start he was informative and reassuring. James worked hard to get me the best possible outcome, and was always very quick to return a call or text. He was straightforward and honest with me about my case, explaining both the good and the bad in a way that was reassuring without being misleading. Overall, I highly recommend Smith and White to anyone who is looking for the most professional representation in their legal matters. Matthew B.
Attorney James White was a beacon of hope for me at a time when my options appeared limited and the likeness of a satisfactory resolution seemed close to nothing. Not only was he able to defend me in a specific sticky situation in which I hired him for, I felt as though he also went above and beyond in efforts to provide me with the best outcome possible. His calm and professional demeanor offered such a great assurance to myself and those I care about around me. I am completely grateful for his service and I most definitely recommend Mr. White. Leyasha J.
Derek Smith guided us through a troubling legal situation with absolute professionalism. This was my first experience with a trial situation and Mr. Smith was able to address all of my questions and concerns in a way that helped address some of the fear I had regarding the legal system. Mr. Smith was highly effective during the trial and the result ended up in our favor. Legal troubles are scary and it was great knowing we had a fantastic legal team on our side to help navigate the somewhat confusing situation. My wife and I emphatically recommend this law firm. Steve B.
Mr. Smith was wonderful to work with. He was professional, knowledgeable and effective!! He takes the time to listen, which is amazing and can be a hard quality to find! He is informative and straight forward, which I truly appreciate! He was quite helpful on another matter that I asked his advise on. Thank you!!! Melika