In Virginia, the police have the right to seize a person’s property associated with certain crimes—such as money laundering, prostitution, and drug offenses—through a civil forfeiture proceeding when they arrest an individual. However, the police in our commonwealth are not the only ones that have the right to seize property. Federal law enforcement can also take property that they believe was involved in criminal activity through the use of different types of federal forfeiture actions.
Three Types of Federal Forfeiture Actions
There are three types of forfeiture actions that the federal government uses to seize a person’s property involved in criminal activity and sell it. They use these procedures to take many types of property, such as real estate, cash, motor vehicles, boats, and much more. Here are the legal proceedings they use.
A criminal forfeiture action is one brought as part of the criminal prosecutions of the accused person. It is a proceeding against the person, which is called in personam. Some forfeiture proceedings are specifically authorized federal criminal laws, such as:
- Controlled Substances Act (CSA)
- Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO)
- Money laundering statutes
- Obscenity laws
- In a criminal forfeiture action, the prosecutor indicts the defendant’s property as well as him personally. As well as deciding on the person’s guilt, the jury must decide whether the property should be forfeited to the government.
Civil Judicial Forfeiture
A civil judicial forfeiture is an action brought against the property, which is referred to as in rem. The defendant in the civil proceeding is the property, not the individual who owns it. There is no requirement that someone be charged with a crime for the federal government to seize property and seek to keep it through a civil judicial forfeiture action.
An administrative forfeiture action is also in rem and can be completed without the filing of civil or criminal forfeiture action. The right to seize property in an administrative forfeiture action is found in the Tariff Act of 1930. It allows for the seizure of these types of property:
- Merchandise that is not permitted to be imported
- Conveyances used to store, transport, or import a controlled substance
- Other property that does not have a value exceeding $500,000
Our Legal Team Is Here to Help
Was your property seized by federal law enforcement officials? You need the assistance of a knowledgeable civil forfeiture lawyer to raise your defenses that can defeat their right to keep and sell your property. Call our Manassas office to schedule a free consultation to learn more about your options and how we can protect your legal rights.