Asset Forfeiture Procedures
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.