Innocent Owner Defense
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.