The first thing the Department of Justice (DOJ), FBI or DEA will do when investigating and prosecuting in a white-collar conspiracy case is seize the defendant’s assets — bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, boats, planes, or other personal property — and seek forfeiture.
Asset seizure means that the federal government takes physical control of the property, and asset forfeiture deprives you of title and ownership of the property.
But you have the right to an attorney to contest asset seizure and asset forfeiture. And if you are facing asset forfeiture or asset seizure, the most important thing you can do is seek legal advice from a forfeiture attorney as early as possible.
Why? Because the asset forfeiture process has a number of crucial deadlines, and failure to respond to asset forfeiture deadlines will result in permanent seizure of your assets.
The most common asset forfeiture statute used to seize assets is 21 U.S.C. §853. It states that any property derived from illegal activity is subject to forfeiture. The government must only show that probable cause exists to believe that the property is the proceeds of illegal activity in order to seize the property.
If the government has seized your property, you will receive a Notice of Forfeiture from a federal agency such as the DEA, IRS, ATF, or FBI.
It is imperative that you contact a federal defense attorney immediately upon your receipt of the notice because a claim must be filed within the deadline to prevent the property from being permanently forfeited.