Your Rights Under California Asset Forfeiture Law
Under California’s asset forfeiture law, law enforcement may permanently seize property that’s connected to a crime. If your property has been confiscated by the police, Valery Nechay Law can help you fight for your hard-earned assets.
California Asset Forfeiture Law
When a person is arrested, it is not unusual for the police to seize personal property from them. While property can be seized from a suspect for any number of reasons, one of the most common is asset forfeiture.
Under California asset forfeiture laws, the government is not supposed to seize a person’s assets without having probable cause to connect them or their property to a crime. Because of this, the government has the burden of proof to support its case. With a skilled lawyer on your side, you can fight the government’s case and often get some or all of your property back.
What Is Asset Forfeiture?
Asset forfeiture is a legal process whereby the government gains permanent possession of items that are considered instrumentalities of a crime, usually beginning with a full or partial confiscation of the property. This can prove devastating to many, and you need the best defense available to get your hard-earned property back.
As a top criminal defense attorney in San Francisco, Valery Nechay understands the subtleties of state and federal asset forfeiture. Putting her extensive experience to work, she has the ability to quickly determine weak points in the government’s case and apply them to her clients’ benefit. If your property has been seized in a California asset forfeiture case, do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Valery Nechay immediately.
Understanding Civil Forfeiture in California
Asset forfeiture is among the government’s most powerful legal tools. With this right, the government can seize your personal property without compensation if it presumes that the property was used in the commission of a criminal offense or purchased with the profits of criminal activity.
To get the property, the government has to prove that the property is connected to criminal activity according to the preponderance of the evidence, which is a lower standard of proof than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of proof used in criminal cases.
Despite its criminal nature, however, the forfeiture process is not always a criminal proceeding. This can further complicate things when you’re trying to get your seized property back.
Civil Asset Forfeiture in California
Technically, asset forfeiture is a proceeding against the property involved in the crime rather than a person. Because of this, it does not matter if the owner of the property has been convicted of a crime as long as the property itself was used in the commission of a crime.
Since asset forfeiture is generally a civil procedure, you have fewer rights and securities under the law. Most notable is the right to an attorney.
Since civil forfeiture cases do not allow the right to a court-appointed attorney, it’s all too easy for the government to take advantage of those who don’t know their rights or the nuances of the legal system. The process to regain possession of your property can be complex and lengthy, and hiring an asset forfeiture attorney can greatly improve your chances of getting your assets back.
What Assets Can Be Seized in Forfeiture?
Anything that law enforcement believes to be involved in the commission of a crime can be subject to forfeiture.
The exact assets that can be taken depend on the specific situation and the type of crime that was committed. Common types of assets seized through asset forfeiture include the following:
- Money, bank accounts, securities, or other financial instruments
- Real estate, including land or buildings
- Raw materials
- Controlled substances
- Vehicles, boats, and aircrafts
- Electronic devices, including cell phones and computers
California law outlines just a few narrow exceptions to this list. Most notably, the police cannot seize your home if it is used as a residence. Additionally, if a piece of real estate is owned by two or more people, the police can not confiscate it if one or more of the owners was not aware of the illegal activity that was taking place there. This can be difficult to prove in court, however, so consulting a trusted criminal defense attorney is essential.
California Asset Forfeiture Guidelines
Asset forfeiture is an intricate legal procedure. While law enforcement may seize your property at will, due process is required for the asset seizure to become a permanent forfeiture. To respect your rights, there are a number of guidelines that must be followed.
When the government wishes to have your property permanently forfeited, you must be offered an official notice of a forfeiture proceeding, either by personal delivery, mail, or a publication in the legal notices of the newspaper in your area. Once you receive this notice, you have thirty days to file a claim. This initiates a court process and a jury trial to make a final decision on the forfeiture.
Unlike some other states, California puts the burden of proof on the police and prosecutors to show why your property should be forfeited. In general, the prosecutor must be able to prove the following:
- The property in concern is linked to criminal activity. This can be proven in one of two ways:
- The property was used to commit a crime
- The property was obtained as the proceeds of or was derived from a crime
- Everybody who has an ownership interest in the property understood it was being used to commit a crime and consented to that use
These guidelines offer you an opportunity to go to court and argue to a jury or judge that your property should not be forfeited. You stand your best chance at keeping your assets when you are represented by a California criminal defense lawyer who has a comprehensive understanding the necessary laws an procedures regarding forfeited property.
When you work with experienced attorney Valery Nechay, you will have a dedicated legal advocate standing by your side and fighting on your behalf to help you regain control of your rightfully-owned property.
What Happens to Seized Assets?
If you fail to take action in court to object to the forfeiture of your assets, you may lose your right to object, leading to the permanent loss of your property. When this happens, the government is not required to compensate you.
If the court permits the government to keep your property through forfeiture, the government will likely sell it at an auction and keep the profits. While California recently passed Senate Bill 443 to better protect citizens against this process, police agencies continue to practice “equitable sharing” in forfeitures involving a criminal conviction.
Equitable sharing happens when state police agencies give the property taken under asset forfeiture to federal law enforcement. Through this process, the property falls under federal guidelines and is managed under federal forfeiture laws, which are much more stringent than California’s guidelines.
Regardless, under equitable sharing, the police get to keep up to 80% of the profits created through the forfeiture. This amounts to tens of millions of dollars in revenue for law enforcement agencies every year in California. Because of the large profit incentive, police agencies will do everything in their power to ensure that you lose control of your property, and a strong defense strategy is necessary to help you keep it.
Contact a Lawyer About Asset Forfeiture in California
All civil and criminal proceedings require the support of a skilled lawyer, and asset forfeiture is no exception. Some victims of this legal process attempt to go at it alone, only to get bogged down by the time, effort, and resources needed to effectively petition the government for the return of the property obtained under police seizure.
Best California Asset Forfeiture Attorney
If your assets were taken due to an alleged connection to criminal activity, lawyer Valery Nechay can draw from her comprehensive background dealing with California law enforcement to help you get some or all of your seized property and possessions back. This can be done in tandem with a comprehensive defense of any criminal charges you may be facing.
No matter the circumstances behind your case, it’s important to contact a skilled defense attorney to explore your options. After she thoroughly evaluates your case, Valery Nechay will analyze all available evidence to identify which legal defenses are most reliable in your case and begin to take action.
If your assets have already been confiscated by the federal government, time is of the essence. Contact The Law Office of Valery Nechay today to schedule a free consultation.
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