Protecting Your Property From Forfeiture
Local, state and federal law enforcement officials across the United States may seize privately owned property they believe was used in the commission of a crime. This is called forfeiture, and in Michigan, it is a big business, worth more than $25 million annually according to a 2008 state government report.
If you have been charged with drug trafficking, gambling, prostitution or another crime involving the use of your private property, the Macomb County criminal defense lawyers at Boyer, St. Pierre, & Aull, PLLC, can help you protect your property from forfeiture or get it back if it has already been seized.
Conviction Influences Criminal Forfeiture
The process of forfeiture usually begins with a search warrant. If illegal activities are discovered around a residence, vehicle or other property, it may be completely seized or objects within may be seized. If the defendant is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court, the law enforcement agency does not have to return the property. The best defenses are to be found not guilty, have your case acquitted, or negotiate to eliminate your property from a plea agreement.
Civil Forfeiture May Not Need A Conviction
Your property may be seized in a civil forfeiture proceeding — even if you have not actually been convicted of a crime — based on the hearsay and circumstantial evidence used to acquire a search warrant. Once your property has been seized, it becomes your responsibility to prove why it should not be forfeited. Since the burden of proof is much weaker for prosecutors, these cases are more difficult to defend against. Experienced Macomb criminal attorneys at Boyer, St. Pierre, & Aull, PLLC, have succeeded in preventing forfeiture for many clients.
You Must Act Quickly To Retain Your Property
Once you receive a notice of forfeiture, you only have 20 days to respond. It is important to retain an experienced criminal attorney quickly to protect your property or it can be forfeited by default.
The Importance Of Forfeiture To Law Enforcement
Forfeiture gained popularity during the national war on drugs. Over the past decade, the Michigan and United States Supreme Courts have upheld and even strengthened the practice through favorable decisions. The most controversial aspect of forfeiture is that the very law enforcement agencies who seize the property may keep a percentage of its value to support its own drug enforcement and prevention programs. Local police departments in Michigan were responsible for 60 percent, or $15 million, in forfeitures in 2008, according to the 2009 Asset Forfeiture Report released by the Michigan Department of Community Health.
Many local police departments count on funds acquired through forfeiture, making them more likely to seize property. Court records show that a large percentage of defendants charged with drug crimes do not fight forfeiture, perpetuating the practice. As long as police profit from the practice, forfeiture will remain common.
Contact Us To Protect Your Property
Headquartered in Sterling Heights, our Macomb County lawyers have served hundreds of clients in Warren, Sterling Heights, Macomb, Clinton and Shelby, and throughout Michigan. Call 586-731-7400 or contact Boyer, St. Pierre, & Aull, PLLC, online immediately for a free initial consultation.