Forfeiture cases are pursued by city prosecutors, county prosecutors, federal prosecutors, and/or United States Customs depending upon the circumstances. Forfeiture laws allow the government to seize and keep businesses, cash, cars, guns, homes, jewelry, and other property that it believes is related to criminal activity or that is a public nuisance. US Customs can seize and keep property that was not properly declared or otherwise not lawfully brought into the United States. Forfeiture is a multimillion dollar industry for local, State, and Federal government and police departments. Local police agencies boast about using money and property seized and forfeited to purchase police cars and police equipment, hire additional officers, and to upgrade law enforcement facilities. Hence, due to its profitability, the seizure of assets by law enforcement and Prosecutors is handled in a consistent and aggressive manner. In fact, there are usually specially assigned State and Federal Prosecutors which only handle forfeiture actions. The forfeiture laws, naturally, are a deck stacked in favor of the government and against property owners – even the innocent owner of property who unknowingly allows his or her property to be used in the course of a crime is subject to losing his or her property. In some cases, property can be seized, kept, and/or destroyed without even a Court order.
Fortunately, there are due process rights afforded to persons that suffer a forfeiture of assets, cash, and/or property. Even though forfeiture claims involve by and large civil litigation, the Michigan and/or United States Constitution provides individuals and businesses rights to be represented by an attorney, to confront witnesses, to present a defense, and the right to trial, which are critical and vital rights in the defense against a forfeiture action. Not all seizures are justified or legal, and there are remedies to such unlawful seizures which can be pursued.
The cost of litigation a forfeiture claim will sometimes lead a prosecution to abandon, compromise, or settle their claim to some or all of the seized property. If you do not contest the forfeiture there is a profit and not a loss to the government and the return of your property is unlikely. Some forfeiture actions involve property of small or little value, and you have to determine whether the effort in attempting to recover the property is worth the legal and personal cost. However, whenever a large forfeiture occurs it is important to immediately hire an attorney to pursue the return of your property through negotiation or trial.
Delay by a victim of forfeiture in pursuing due process rights often leads to the inability to obtain any form of relief. In some cases a bond needs to be posted in a short period of time in order to even challenge the forfeiture. If you wait too long, no attorney can help you try to recover what is yours. If you sleep on your rights, in most cases, you will be permanently deprived of your property without any form of remedy available.
Your ability to hire a lawyer does not have to be hindered due to frozen bank accounts or seized assets. In some instances attorney fees can be paid through a contingency fee, or in some cases the attorney fee can be recovered later from the property seized due to provisions in the law. Many law firms, such as Hilf & Hilf, PLC, also accept credit card payments to secure legal representation.
Often a criminal prosecution will go hand in hand with a forfeiture case. Drug cases, gambling cases, and prostitution allegations commonly involve criminal prosecution and forfeiture. Sometimes a resolution of a forfeiture case goes hand in hand with the resolution of a criminal allegation, and the legal representation as to both matters makes all the difference. It is often wise to have the same lawyer handle both the forfeiture and criminal proceedings. The law firm of Hilf & Hilf, PLC can professionally handle your forfeiture and/or criminal law issues.
In cases involving undeclared money being seized by United States Customs at the border or port of entry, it is sometimes possible to obtain the return of the property if the matter is properly prepared and presented. In all instances, United States Customs will not return funds unless there is proof submitted that the funds were derived from a legitimate source. For persons that are not citizens, border issues can have unforeseen immigration consequences. The law firm of Hilf & Hilf, PLC, has experienced lawyers to handle all United States immigration related issues.