Asset Forfeitures in Texas

In addition to criminal penalties, many drug cases involve asset forfeiture. Forfeiture is the government seizure of property connected to illegal activity. Used by the government in their “war on drugs," the practice has been surrounded with controversy. From law enforcement’s perspective, they believe that it deters drug offenses. From the “little guy’s” standpoint, this means that your property, ranging from vehicles to household luxuries to cash, can be taken forcibly from you by the government if they believe it is somehow related to illegal drug activity. If your property or assets have been the subject of a criminal or civil forfeiture, it is important to consult with an experienced forfeiture defense attorney to understand your rights and options.

The United States Supreme Court has identified certain categories of property that the government can seize:

  1. Contraband – property which by its nature is a crime to own or possess. This would include illegal drugs, drugs for which you do not have a prescription, or illegally smuggled goods.
  2. Instrumentalities – property used in the commission of a crime, such as vehicles, boats, items used to manufacture controlled substances, or real estate.
  3. Proceeds – property that results from the sale or use of illegal activity, such as cash allegedly traced to the sale of controlled substances.

If your property is seized by the government, you are entitled to a hearing with the full protections afforded you under the Constitution. At the hearing, the government must show by a preponderance of the evidence that you obtained the seized property in connection with illegal activity. If the government can prove its case, the burden of proof shifts to the defendant to show that the property at issue is not linked to illegality. These hearings are usually civil in nature, and the proceeds derived from the forfeiture of your property are used to pay for confidential informants, law enforcement activity and programs, building prisons, etc. As such, the government has a strong financial incentive in seizing your property. If your property has been forfeited, there are defenses available to you as well as legal ways to take back what is rightfully yours if you have a hard working attorney on your side.

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