Can the Government Legally Seize My Property?
What Is Civil Forfeiture?
In the United States, sometimes law enforcement will seize, hold onto, or otherwise take assets from someone on suspicion of criminal activity, despite not bringing criminal charges against them. This controversial procedure is known as civil forfeiture. In the United States, this is often used as a means of preventing money laundering, tax evasion, and use of large assets by criminal and terrorist organizations. Civil forfeiture is viewed as separate from criminal litigation, because it is legally considered a proceeding enacted against specific property, rather than against the property owner.
When Is Civil Forfeiture Used?
The United States government can resort to civil forfeiture whenever a transaction of more than $10K is made in 1 business day. However, if multiple smaller transactions (which combined add up to $10K or more) are made between the same two parties over the course of more than 1 day, federal laws require banks and other financial institutions to notify the government and file a Suspicious Activity Report, especially if payments seem deliberately staggered, which can amount to “structuring” and result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and up to 5 years in prison.
What if I Have Been Accused of Illegal Structuring?
In order to successfully defend charges of structuring and evasion of reporting regulations, you will have to prove that you did not deliberately seek to do so. This will be particularly important in cases where there is an appearance of intent to keep large transactions unnoticed by the federal government, such as making multiple transactions that are just under $10K or smaller, staggered payments that add up to $10K or more.
If your property has been seized, you need to file a claim within 30 days or you will not be able to contest it in court. You will also need to file an ownership claim to the seized property, which will officially begin the legal process. However, there are certain precautions you must take when contesting civil forfeiture in order to avoid creating an appearance of guilt or involvement in criminal activity.
Speak with a Civil Forfeiture Lawyer in Tulsa Today
In order to avoid the harsh consequences of an illegal structuring charge or prove that your seized property has not played a role in any criminal activity, you will need an experienced Tulsa civil forfeiture attorney to help you build your case. It is crucial that you have a criminal defense lawyer on your side to help you preserve your business, your hard-earned money, your property, and your reputation. At Saint & Watzke, PLLP, we know what it takes to help you get your property back and avoid implicating yourself.
Let us help—call (918) 721-0998 today or contact us to set up your free case evaluation.