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Federal asset forfeiture appeal could potentially help you recover more

A new case could have implications for you if your property has been targeted in a government civil forfeiture action.
 
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    December 24, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- When you are charged with a crime, you have a right to stage a legal defense. Punishment is not imposed until you have been found guilty in a court of law.

Yet, under civil forfeiture laws, you can be deprived of your property with no finding of guilt. A recent federal case currently on appeal before the Ninth Circuit could help individuals and businesses defend against future civil forfeitures and recoup more of the legal costs they incur in doing so.

Property recovered, but only part of attorney fees

In the federal system, the government can file a lawsuit naming the property of an individual or business as a defendant. Then, the government can argue that this property should be forfeited because it facilitated a crime or represents the proceeds of a crime.

Sometimes civil asset forfeitures are linked to a criminal case. But often, the government attempts to take assets through civil forfeiture even without any evidence that a specific crime has even taken place. All it could take for the government to initiate a civil forfeiture action is a law enforcement officer finding someone who is unemployed with a large amount of cash; or having a drug dog alert to indicate that cash has at some point been exposed to drug residue; or trying to seize an entire business after finding out that a small amount of illicit funds have been comingled with other investments in the enterprise.

It does not take much for prosecutors to pursue a civil forfeiture case. After all, it is free revenue for the government if they win. But, you can contest the forfeiture. In one recent federal case, that is just what the property owner did -- and he won.

When police barged into Robert Moser's home, they neither had consent nor a search warrant. Moser was not even read his rights. But, the police did find $28,000 in cash, which they promptly snatched up.

Due to the flagrant violations of his constitutional rights in the search, Moser and his attorney were able to convince a district court judge to order the return of the money. Moser also asked for attorney's fees; under the federal Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, someone who "substantially prevails" in a civil forfeiture case is entitled to recover reasonable attorney fees from the government.

Moser was awarded attorney fees by the district court, but the award for attorney fees was substantially less than what he had originally asked for. He appealed in an attempt to get his attorney fee award increased, and the case is now pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

If Moser wins, his case could have implications for others affected by civil forfeiture. A victory could make it easier to defend against forfeiture actions; the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization Americans for Forfeiture Reform even filed a brief in the case urging the court to rule in Moser's favor.

Contact a civil forfeiture lawyer for legal help

According to the Wall Street Journal, before 2000, between 2,000 and 5,000 noncriminal forfeiture actions were pursued by U.S. Attorneys every year. In 2010, U.S. Attorneys filed 11,000 civil forfeiture actions.

Yet, out of those 11,000 cases, just 1,800 were challenged. If the government is trying to take your assets through civil forfeiture, do not give up without a fight. You may be able to recover your property, and you could even get the government to foot your legal bill in the process. Talk to a civil forfeiture lawyer today to start building your case.

Article provided by Brown, PC
Visit us at www.brownassetforfeiture.com



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