Killeen Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney
Help when law enforcement seizes your property in Harker Heights, Copperas Cove, and across Central Texas
Civil forfeiture is a government proceeding where authorities confiscate and seize any property or assets they believe were used to violate the law or gained by illegal means. Asset forfeiture was originally designed to bring down large crime organizations, but over the years we’ve seen many instances of overreach and an overly broad application of the law – resulting in needless financial hardship and possible violation of rights.
Law enforcement agencies seize millions and millions of dollars in property, cash, cars and other assets every year. In fact, between 2001 and 2014, United States authorities seized assets worth $29 billion via civil forfeiture, according to a report called “Policing for Profit.” Here in Texas, almost 60% of people don’t fight their seizures in court, resulting in judges turning over their property to local government.
The civil forfeiture attorneys at the Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm can help you regain your rightful assets and property after forfeiture and seizure. Talk to our criminal defense lawyers today to find out more.
Many innocent people lose their property because they don’t fully understand their rights, the laws regarding civil asset forfeiture and how to fight them.
What is civil asset forfeiture?
Texas civil forfeiture statutes give law enforcement the right to seize assets and property they believe were involved in, or represent the proceeds of, a crime. Asset forfeiture is a controversial practice, especially because authorities can take your assets even if someone else used them to commit a crime. It’s also important to note here that authorities can seize your assets just for suspected criminal activity. That means that the government can pursue seizure and forfeiture actions even if no one has been arrested and no charges have been filed.
When all the dust is settled, the criminal justice system leaves it up to you to navigate a complex and time-consuming legal process to get your property back.
The Drug Policy Alliance reports that in 80% of civil asset forfeitures, criminal charges are never even filed against the property owner.
Our attorneys know your rights and know how to lead you through the system and secure what’s rightfully yours. We zealously assert your Fourteenth Amendment rights to unreasonable search and seizure.
Is there a difference between seizure and forfeiture?
Yes. Seizure happens before forfeiture. Seizure is the act of taking property or assets – for example, if a police officer takes marijuana from your vehicle during a traffic stop. For non-tangible property, like credit cards or bank accounts, authorities will “freeze” the assets, preventing you from having access to the money.
Forfeiture, on the other hand, happens when you permanently lose your ownership of the seized property and assets via a court order. Seizure doesn’t always end in forfeiture – and that’s the reason you need experienced Killeen attorneys on your side.
What assets can the authorities take?
Under civil asset forfeiture law, law enforcement has the authority to take property like the following if they believe it was involved in any part of committing a crime:
- Cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats
- Cash and other financial assets
- Cell phones and computers
- Controlled substances
- Drug paraphernalia
- Homes and property
- Weapons and firearms
You can find yourself ending up in a civil forfeiture situation for as something as minor as a traffic stop. For example, after stopping you, an officer may ask to search your vehicle. Note: it’s important to remember your rights and that an officer may not search your vehicle without a warrant or probable cause. However, if you consent to the search and the officer finds anything considered contraband or evidence of a crime, your vehicle could be seized. It’s that easy.
What happens to my Killeen property and assets after civil seizure?
After seizing property, authorities must send you specific information within a certain period (typically 30 days), including a description and location of the seized property and contact information for further details (including on how to get it back). They should send this notification via first-class mail.
If your property and assets are forfeited, the government may use it in a variety of different ways. If it is harmful to the public, it will be disposed of or destroyed. If it is eligible to be sold, the government may use it to:
- Pay expenses related to the forfeiture (seizure, storing the property, court costs)
- Disperse it to the general expenses of the state
- Disperse it to the division that seized the property
- Disperse it to the state law enforcement that seized the property
It’s not hard to see that once your assets and property are forfeited, authorities have a pretty big incentive to hold onto it. This is why civil asset seizure and forfeiture laws are so controversial. However, we’re ready to take them on for you.
Is a warrant required to take my property?
No. In Killeen and across TX, law enforcement doesn’t necessarily need a warrant to seize your assets and property. A police officer can take your property if they’re in the process of making an arrest, conducting a lawful search or a search with your consent.
However – if police take your property without a warrant, they must have probable cause. Probable cause, as you know, means that before being searched, the officer has to have reasonable cause to believe that a crime is being, about to be or has been committed.
How can I get my property and assets back?
The law enforcement agency that seized your property is required to submit paperwork to the county, asking the district attorney to file a lawsuit allowing them to keep your property permanently. This is called a forfeiture lawsuit, and you can think of it like the state bringing a suit against your assets and property.
If you do nothing, even if charges were dropped or you were acquitted, the government will keep your property. If you want your property returned to you, our civil asset forfeiture attorneys can fight to get it back. We’ll help file the proper paperwork and represent you in court – working to ensure you don’t lose the things you’ve lawfully worked hard for all your life.
Experienced civil asset seizure and forfeiture defense
If your cash, property or assets were taken by authorities in connection with a crime – even if you haven’t even committed one – talk to the attorneys at the Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm. Our years of experience with civil asset seizure and forfeiture defense gives you the inside edge you need in this complex area of law. Let us help. Contact us today at 254-680-4655 or by filling out our contact form. We have offices in Killeen and Harker Heights, handle in-custody visits for clients who cannot come to us.