Law enforcement in Frisco can seize your personal property when they suspect that it is connected to criminal activity. This practice is called civil asset forfeiture. Shockingly, you do not need to be convicted or even arrested for law enforcement to seize your property in Texas. Frisco law enforcement officers only need to suspect that it was used in the commission of a crime, is intended to be used in the commission of a crime, or is the proceeds of criminal activity. Most commonly, civil asset forfeiture is related to drug and white-collar crimes.
Texas law enforcement can seize all types of personal property – cash, bank accounts, vehicles, homes, boats, jewelry, weapons, drugs, etc.
How Long Can Law Enforcement Keep My Property in Frisco?
There is a difference between when your property is seized and when it is forfeited in Frisco. When the police seize your property, they gain temporary possession. When your property is forfeited, you lose all ownership rights to the property indefinitely.
After Frisco law enforcement seizes your property, the state has 30 days to file a forfeiture lawsuit against your property in court. The outcome of the case determines whether your property will be returned to you or forfeited forever. If the state wins the suit, your property will be forfeited, and the state will gain ownership over your property. If you win the forfeiture suit, your property will be returned to you. Forfeiture cases typically last a few months but can drag on even longer.
In some instances, you can post a bond and request that the property is returned to you while your case is ongoing. You must agree to return the property to the state on the day of your forfeiture trial and abide by the court’s decision. You will not be granted temporary possession of the property if it is money or evidence in a pending criminal trial.
The state has a strong incentive to seize property because Texas law enforcement agencies keep up to 70% of forfeiture proceeds. Forfeiture proceeds fund up to 40% of county and local enforcement budgets in Texas, and the practice is sometimes referred to as “policing for profit.” This system makes civil asset forfeiture subject to abuse and corruption.
How Do I Get My Property Back?
You must fight your forfeiture case in court if you want to get your property back. The court will send you a notice in the mail after the suit is filed. If you do not respond to the forfeiture suit, the court will enter a default judgment, and you will lose your property. In Texas, over 60% of people do not fight forfeiture cases.
If you respond to the forfeiture suit, the state must establish that the seized property was more likely than not used (or intended to be used) in the commission of a crime. If the state meets this burden, your property will be forfeited, and the state will keep it indefinitely. This burden is lower than criminal cases, which require the state to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
However, it is possible to fight and win forfeiture cases in Frisco, Texas. You have the right to have an attorney, but because it is not a criminal case, you will not be given a public defender. You should seek out the help of a local Frisco criminal defense attorney to help you get your property back.
There are various defenses that your attorney could present depending on the unique circumstances of your case. Some common examples of defenses used in forfeiture cases are listed below.
- Your attorney could present evidence that the property is not connected to criminal activity.
- Your attorney could argue the innocent owner’s defense. Under this defense, if you had no knowledge of the crime and should not have reasonably known about the crime, the property will not be forfeited. However, you cannot purposely avoid learning that the property was used in the commission of a crime.
- Your attorney could argue that you were a victim of family violence and therefore unable to stop the commission of the crime.
Your Frisco Criminal Defense Attorney
If law enforcement has seized your property, you should reach out to an experienced Frisco criminal defense attorney. Philip D. Ray is a knowledgeable Frisco attorney who will fight aggressively for the return of your property. Call Philip D. Ray today to schedule a consultation at (214) 845-7987.