Non-judicial forfeiture proceedings

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Asset forfeiture is the process by which the government seizes one’s property that it believes is “reasonably” connected to illegal activities. With respect to marijuana or other drug offenses, this property can be anything from the facility used to manufacture or store the drug, to the vehicle used to transport the drug to any money that is associated with the purchase or the sale of the drug. Because the government has a relatively low burden to meet in order to obtain one’s property under forfeiture law, it is absolutely necessary for an individual who has been accused of any marijuana-related activity to immediately contact one of the well versed and experienced criminal attorneys at The Kavinoky Law Firm in order to protect his or her rights and assets.

Non-judicial forfeiture proceedings are one type of asset forfeiture proceeding – civil and criminal are the other two. Non-judicial forfeiture proceedings include “summary forfeiture” and “administrative forfeiture” proceedings, neither of which requires judicial involvement. A “summary forfeiture” is the process by which the government seizes property without any notice to or hearing for the owner. The only type of property that may be summarily forfeited is that which is illegal “per se,” which means illegal on its face and includes dangerous, toxic or hazardous raw materials or products and their containers. “Administrative forfeiture” must be specifically permitted by law, otherwise property may only be forfeited through formal court action. An administrative forfeiture is the process by which property is forfeited to the government by the investigative agency that seized it.

A non-judicial, administrative forfeiture proceeding, if applicable, pertains to property that does not exceed $500,000 (which includes vehicles, merchandise or baggage), is illegally imported (regardless of its value), is a vehicle that was used to import, export, transport or store marijuana (regardless of its value) or is a monetary instrument (that is, any money, domestic or foreign, traveler’s checks, stocks, checks, bank notes and money orders) whose value again, is irrelevant. Real property (such as buildings and homes) and multiple items of property that are seized that total more than $500,000 must be forfeited through judicial proceedings.

Property that has been seized may be returned to an individual who shares an ownership in the property if it is proven that the individual had no knowledge or reason to know of the property’s illegal use or of the accused individual’s criminal record or reputation. Property that is likely to perish, waste, greatly depreciate in value or that is simply too expensive to maintain during the administrative proceeding may be sold by the seizing agency (under certain conditions) and the proceeds will be treated as a substitute for the original property in the ensuing forfeiture.

When an agency decides to proceed with an administrative forfeiture proceeding, it must inform the owner within 60 days of the date of seizure (in most circumstances) in order to avoid a claim by the property owner that his or her Constitutional rights were violated. There are very specific guidelines that regulate how notice must be given, which is one of the reasons why it is so important to retain a skilled attorney who has mastered this area of the law and who therefore knows when rules and regulations have not been followed.

Judicial review of an administrative forfeiture may take place if the property owner feels that he or she is entitled to lawful possession of the property because his or her property was accidentally, fraudulently or improperly seized. In order to obtain such a review, the property owner must overcome some serious hurdles. The outstanding attorneys at The Kavinoky Law Firm are dedicated to protecting the rights and property of their clients and know what arguments to raise to effectively challenge asset forfeitures. To speak to one of their exceptional lawyers, contact the firm today for a free consultation.