What Is Civil Forfeiture?

Civil asset forfeiture refers to a claim between the state or federal government and property that was used in, affected by, or connected to a crime. For example, an owner may need to bring a claim to recover a stolen car used in a robbery or to regain access to bank accounts that were frozen. Yet unlike criminal forfeiture, there is not a related criminal proceeding to which the third-party property owner files an ancillary claim.

There are important procedural differences that apply to civil asset forfeiture claims. Federal law requires government officials to provide written notice to the property owners within 60 days of the seizure. If the owner responds by written claim, the government must file a civil complaint and demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the property was involved in the crime. Kentucky also has state laws applicable to the forefeiture process.

Seized property does not need to belong to the person accused of a crime; these are called ancillary claims. For example, a stolen car later used in a robbery may be seized and the car's original owner will need to undergo civil forfeiture appeals to recover their property. Similarly, bank accounts and other assets may be frozen subject to civil forfeiture proceedings, leaving people unrelated to a crime unable to access their funds.

At Myron P. Watson, Attorney at Law, we often represent clients in civil forfeiture proceedings as part of our comprehensive criminal defense services. Whether accused of drug conspiracy or another serious offense, we will explain all collateral consequences.

In Ohio, you can appeal the civil forfeiture of your property. But you need to realize that a different set of rules applies if the forfeiture action is a result of federal crimes and processed through federal court.

How Can We Help You?

The government has the burden to show that seized money and property are directly connected, instrumental to or resulting from the commission of a crime. This is often referred to as a nexus between the property and the crime.

As a property owner, you have options. Find out what they are before you lose them. Whether through an administrative hearing or filing a formal claim in court, we can help you.

Contact Us

Our Cleveland-based office has experience with federal and state civil forfeiture claims. Our lawyer can help you recover your property. To begin filing for your property, contact us today. You can email us or reach us by phone at 216-800-5333.