At Smith & White, PLLC we are fully vaccinated against COVID for your safety and convenience. Zoom and Webex meetings remain available.

Justia Lawyer Rating
AV Preeminent
Avvo Client's Choice Award 2018
Avvo Rating 10 - Top Attorney
BBB Business Accredited
2019 Champion of Justice

Innocent Owner Defense

Asset Forfeiture Attorneys Advocating for Tacoma Residents

The laws of Washington permit the government to seize a person’s assets on the mere suspicion that the assets are connected to criminal activity. Even if the government agency that seizes a person’s property proves that the property bears a relation to a crime, the owner may be able to avoid forfeiture of the property if the owner can show that he or she did not know of any relationship between the property and any criminal activity. The Tacoma asset forfeiture defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Smith & White, PLLC can set forth an innocent owner defense if it applies in your case. We represent people in asset forfeiture proceedings in cities throughout Pierce, King, Kitsap, and Thurston Counties.

Washington’s Asset Forfeiture Statutes

Under Washington law, the government can seize your assets through civil or criminal forfeiture proceedings. There are numerous statutes that permit law enforcement agencies to seize property when the owner of the property has been criminally charged. Additionally, several statutes permit the government to institute civil asset forfeiture proceedings. Under Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 10.105.010, property that was used or intended to be used for the commission of a felony can be seized. Additionally, the government can seize assets used to commit a drug crime or accrued due to the commission of a drug crime under RCW 69.50.505. The government can seize property under RCW 69.50.505 regardless of whether criminal charges have been filed against the owner of the property.

The Innocent Owner Defense

In asset forfeiture proceedings, the case is initiated by the seizing party, which is commonly a local law enforcement agency. Under Washington’s civil forfeiture laws, property can be seized and forfeited if the seizing party can prove that it was connected to a criminal act. The seizing party must prove the property’s relation to a crime by a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, the seizing party must establish that it is more likely than not that the property was associated with a crime.

Even if the party that seized the property can prove the property’s relation to the commission of a crime, however, the owner of the property may still be able to defend against forfeiture. Specifically, if the owner of the property can prove that he or she had no knowledge of the criminal activity associated with the property, he or she may be able to retain his or her property rights. This defense is often known as the innocent owner defense. To avoid forfeiture under the innocent owner defense, the owner must show that he or she did not consent to the use of the property for any illegal activity and was not involved in any criminal activity related to the property.

In addition to the innocent owner defense, there are other methods to fight against the forfeiture of property seized by the government. If your property was seized under civil forfeiture laws, you should speak with a defense attorney regarding your available strategies.

Discuss Your Case with a Trusted Tacoma Attorney

While the government is permitted to seize assets under numerous Washington statutes, the government’s seizure authority is not without limits, and people can defend against the seizure and forfeiture of their property if they can show that they are innocent of any knowledge of criminal wrongdoing in relation to the property. If you are facing the threat of forfeiture, you should consult an asset forfeiture defense lawyer to discuss the innocent owner defense and other defenses that you may be able to set forth to retain your property. The capable criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Smith & White, PLLC can develop persuasive arguments on your behalf to help you in your attempt to retain possession of your property. We have an office in Tacoma and can meet by appointment at our office in Vashon. We can be reached via the form online or at 253-203-1645 to set up a consultation regarding your case.

Client Reviews
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