Asset Forfeiture

Aggressive Lebanon Criminal Asset Forfeiture Attorneys

When your property is seized by law enforcement in Nashville, Mt. Juliet, Cookeville, and throughout Tennessee

You might not know that the state or federal government can legally confiscate money and property from a person accused of a crime. The purpose of criminal forfeiture is to ensure that criminals do not profit from their crimes, that their property can no longer be used to facilitate further crimes, to recover stolen property, deter the possibility of additional crimes, and penalize the culprit. However, citizens have the right to protest the seizure of their property by law enforcement. Helping clients defend against the forfeiture of their assets is a critical aspect of what we do as criminal defense attorneys.

At Lowery, Lowery & Cherry PLLC, our Lebanon criminal forfeiture attorneys are here to protect your right to get your property back when it was illegally seized. You can rely on our experienced criminal defense lawyers to provide a rigorous defense and protect your legal rights throughout the criminal justice system. If the government has seized your property, we are here to help you get property returned to you.

What is criminal asset forfeiture?

Criminal asset forfeiture, per the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), is “is an action brought as a part of the criminal prosecution of a defendant. It is an in personam (against the person) action and requires that the government indict (charge) the property used or derived from the crime along with the defendant. If the jury finds the property forfeitable, the court issues an order of forfeiture.”

Both state and federal law enforcement bodies have rules regarding asset forfeiture. Under Tennessee’s laws, “Seizure without process may be made if the seizure is incident to an arrest or a search under a search warrant.” This is why, if you are stopped for a traffic violation, the police may take whatever assets they suspect are related to a crime if you allow them to search your vehicle.

Generally, both the state and the federal government share the assets that have been seized. This makes asset forfeiture a very lucrative process for both Tennessee and the federal government. It has been called “policing for profit.”

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What crimes are associated with criminal asset forfeiture?

The government can seize assets if those assets are used to commit crimes, to further criminal activity, or were obtained through criminal acts. Some of the more common crimes associated with asset forfeiture include:

  • Drug crimes
  • White-collar crimes, like money laundering
  • Fraud
  • DUIs
  • Robbery
  • Burglary

What is civil forfeiture?

With a civil forfeiture, there is no requirement for a criminal conviction for the property or assets to be seized. The government needs probable cause that the property was used in committing a crime, or that it was gained illegally. According to the DOJ, “Civil forfeiture is an in rem (against the property) action brought in court against the property. The property is the defendant and no criminal charge against the owner is necessary.”

Improper civil asset forfeiture can cost the wrongfully accused both time and money in their attempts to have their belongings returned to them. Tennessee remains one of the least protective states for property owners. Proposed legislation aims to change that, increasing the burden of proof before seizure of property or assets.

Additionally, a 2019 Supreme Court decision ruled that limits must be placed on civil forfeiture, permitting property owners and their attorneys the chance to argue that the seizure of certain property and assets was excessive.

What can be seized through criminal asset forfeiture?

Examples of property that might be seized through criminal asset forfeiture include:

  • Cash
  • Property
  • Homes
  • Real estate
  • Vehicles
  • Boats
  • Airplanes
  • Weapons

If you have had an interaction with law enforcement, and you have had property seized, it is vital that you contact a knowledgeable Lebanon criminal asset forfeiture attorney immediately so that you can begin the process of retrieving your property.

What happens to property that has been confiscated?

Law enforcement agencies are permitted to keep the proceeds of property that is seized. The agency may keep the property if it is cash, or they may auction off items such as cars, boats, planes, weapons, and other valuable property.

A story in the Tennessean describes an incident in 2017 when the Mt. Juliet police department seized a disabled veteran's car because his son was suspected of selling cocaine using his father's vehicle. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a complaint with the TN Department of Safety, claiming that the seizure violated the man's Fourth Amendment rights. The claim of forfeiture was dismissed, and the vehicle was returned. This case has, in part, led to legislation like we mentioned above.

You can learn more about asset forfeiture, and access all state forms, here.

Is the criminal and civil asset forfeiture process abused in Tennessee?

When the Institute for Justice (IJ) published the second edition of its research paper on the abuse of civil asset forfeiture in the United States, they called the process "the greatest threats to property rights in the nation today, too often making it easy and lucrative for law enforcement to take and keep property – regardless of the owner's guilt or innocence."

The report gave the state of Tennessee a D-minus for its civil forfeiture laws because of the low bar to forfeit and no conviction required, limited protections for innocent third-party property owners, and as much as 100% of forfeiture proceeds going to law enforcement. They revealed that the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security takes in an average $14,328,743 in forfeiture proceeds each year.

How can a Lebanon criminal defense attorney help my case?

It is important to remember that despite what the government may be accusing you of, you have property rights, but you must move quickly to protect them. The state is required to prove how the property was used to further a crime. If you have had property seized, our lawyers have experience helping others before you in all aspects of asset forfeiture. We offer skilled guidance about how to protect your assets from often aggressive law enforcement. You likely have questions about how we can help you to get your property back. We are here to help.

Experienced Lebanon criminal and civil asset forfeiture attorneys

If you have been accused of a crime and had your property or assets seized, you need a strong advocate on your side. The Lebanon criminal defense lawyers at Lowery, Lowery & Cherry, PLLC are here to help you get your property back. We serve clients in Nashville, Mt. Juliet, Cookeville, or elsewhere in Tennessee. To set up a consultation, call 615-454-9404 or fill out our contact form.