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The Law Offices of Stanley L. Friedman
White Collar Criminal Defense 310-598-2000
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Los Angeles Asset Forfeiture Defense Attorney

Keep the Government From Taking Your Property

Billions of dollars in cash and property get seized by the government every year in conjunction with a criminal charge. Houses, cars, boats, buildings, and mountains of cash get forfeited; sometimes the seizure takes place before the defendant is convicted of any crime, and in some cases the seizure occurs before any charges are even filed.

Asset forfeiture is big business for the federal government, and if you want to protect your property, you need the help of a legal expert who knows his way around U.S. asset forfeiture laws and procedures. Stanley L. Friedman worked for years as a federal prosecutor (Assistant U.S. Attorney), investigating and prosecuting complex and high-dollar healthcare and financial fraud cases. In that capacity, he became well-acquainted with the law and process for civil and criminal asset forfeiture. As a healthcare and financial fraud defense lawyer, Mr. Friedman has spent decades defending people charged with healthcare and financial crimes, including providing a robust defense against government attempts to seize and forfeit property.

If you’ve been served with a notice of forfeiture by the federal government, you should act quickly to protect your rights. There are steps you can take to keep the government from taking your property, but your window of opportunity is limited. In Los Angeles, call the Law Offices of Stanley L. Friedman to learn about your options and chart a path toward success with an experienced and successful asset forfeiture defense attorney.

Civil Asset Forfeiture

A civil asset forfeiture is known as an “in rem” proceeding because the case proceeds against the property itself as the defendant. This leads to funny case names, but the possible outcome is no joke. As long as the government can prove a connection between the property and a crime that occurred, the state can seize the asset and subject it to forfeiture. Since in rem cases proceed as civil actions, it’s irrelevant if the owner of the property was convicted of a crime or even charged. In addition, the government need only prove its case by a “preponderance of evidence,” which is a much lower standard than “beyond a reasonable doubt” required in a criminal proceeding.

To succeed in a civil asset forfeiture, the government must prove a nexus between the property and the crime. The nexus requirement is generally limited to three categories, but these groups have such a broad reach that they can take in just about any kind of property. The nexus requirement can basically be demonstrated in any of the following ways:

  • The property was used to facilitate a crime, such as a “getaway car” in a bank robbery or a truck or boat used to transport drugs or other contraband.

  • The property was used to conceal a criminal act, from a warehouse hiding stolen merchandise to a computer used to alter financial documents.

  • The property is the proceeds of a crime or was acquired with criminal proceeds, such as cash from a bank robbery or drug deal or literally anything bought with that money that the government can trace to an ill-gotten source.

Criminal Asset Forfeiture

Unlike civil asset forfeiture which doesn’t require criminal charges, criminal judicial forfeiture takes place amid a criminal prosecution according to Rule 32.2 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. A criminal asset forfeiture begins with a notice to the defendant that the government will seek forfeiture as part of sentencing. The government need not identify the specific property it intends to seize or the amount of a forfeiture money judgment it might go after at this preliminary stage.

If the defendant’s trial concludes with a guilty verdict or there is a plea of guilty on a count for which forfeiture is being sought, then the trial will enter a separate forfeiture phase. Here the court determines whether a nexus exists between the subject property and the offense, or the amount of a money judgment to impose. The court can consider new or existing evidence at this stage and will hold a hearing if the defendant contests the forfeiture.

A criminal asset forfeiture therefore goes through several stages: notice, preliminary forfeiture order, general order, seizure, and final order of forfeiture. The final order can be appealed, and the order can be stayed pending the outcome of the appeal.

Substitution of Assets

Under Rule 32.2(e) of the Federal Rules, if the forfeitable property can’t be found or is otherwise unable to be seized, other property might be substituted and seized instead. The court could initially include substitute property in its preliminary forfeiture order; alternatively, the court can amend its forfeiture order at any item to include substitute property. Special procedures apply to forfeiture cases involving substitute assets.

Contact the Law Offices of Stanley L. Friedman to Fight Asset Forfeiture in Los Angeles

Asset forfeitures can proceed in conjunction with a criminal case or separately, and your property is at risk even if you are never charged with a crime. The Law Offices of Stanley L. Friedman can help you understand your rights in a civil asset forfeiture or criminal matter and help you keep your valuable property wherever possible. Contact our office in Los Angeles by calling 213-629-1500 to speak with our skilled and knowledgeable asset forfeiture defense attorney.

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