Asset Seizure / Forfeiture
Asset forfeiture laws are meant to target large-scale criminals whose property or cash is proven to have been obtained by illegal means. In reality, civil asset forfeiture has turned the justice system on its head by requiring people to demonstrate their property was not involved in the commission of a crime. And instead of targeting large asset seizures of professional criminals, the net has been widened to very minor amounts of property that may not be worth the cost of a legal defense.
The State of Utah passed important reforms for asset forfeiture in 2000 such as routing money obtained through asset seizure to school funds rather than police coffers. Also, prosecutors were required to file quickly for the property in question so it was not held up in a quagmire of bureaucracy. Importantly, the reforms also ensured reimbursement of reasonable attorney fees if a person beat their asset seizure in court.
Unfortunately, beginning in 2004, legislators have rolled back these reforms to the point where Utahans are again faced with the pre-2000 asset forfeiture environment.
Defense Attorney for Asset Seizure in Salt Lake City
If you have had property seized or have been notified of a seizure, contact a defense attorney immediately. There are important deadlines that, if missed, will result in the loss of ownership of your property.
Levitt Legal, PLLC can assist those who reside or those who were simply passing through Utah when their property was seized. Attorney Darren Levitt has represented clients across Salt Lake County, Utah County, Davis County, Weber County, Tooele County, Summit County, and surrounding areas. If you have experienced the misfortune of asset forfeiture, call (801) 455-1743 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. We will work with you to get your property back as quickly as possible.
Asset Forfeiture Laws in Utah
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Asset Forfeiture and Asset Seizure in Salt Lake City
Asset forfeiture can be brought against a person’s property regardless if that person is charged with a crime. Because there is a lower burden of proof in civil versus criminal cases, it may be easier to convince others that your property was used to commit a crime or is a spoil of crime than it is to charge you directly with a crime. The crime most often alleged to be involved is that of drug possession and distribution.
The Utah Criminal Code § 24-4-102 allows law enforcement to seize all property used to facilitate the commission of a federal or state offense and any proceeds of criminal activity. People who own property on which illegal activity is conducted may have their property seized if the prosecutor can show the property owner was aware of crimes being committed.
Commonly, asset forfeiture occurs through a routine traffic stop. A person will be pulled over and subjected to a search by drug dogs. These dubious search methods and the justification for being pulled over should be questioned by your defense lawyer. The police officer may insist you sign away found cash and other valuables in exchange for their not bringing criminal charges against you.
Levitt Legal, PLLC will combat these tactics and promptly file your answer to the prosecutor’s complaint.
We will also assist you if it is necessary to file a hardship release. You may be temporarily granted your property through a hardship release if losing it would leave you homeless, prevent any person from receiving medical care, prevent the functioning of a legitimate business, prevent the care of an elderly or disabled individual, or prevent a child from attending school.
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Defenses for Asset Forfeiture
Levitt Legal, PLLC will be actively involved in your case, and if the prosecution misses a key deadline, we will immediately file for a dismissal and return of your property.
Attorney Darren Levitt will suppress any evidence gained in violation of your rights, which can seriously weaken the prosecution’s case. Probable cause will be raised in every claim of the government to weaken links between your property and illegal activity. Through investigation, we will demonstrate to the jury that your property was obtained through legitimate means.
Innocent owners are those landlords or property owners who had no knowledge of their property being used to conduct a crime. Property seizure will be enforced if the prosecution can prove that you have done any of the following:
- are criminally responsible for the conduct giving rise to the forfeiture;
- knew of the conduct giving rise to the forfeiture, and allowed the property to be used in furtherance of the conduct;
- acquired the property with notice of its actual or constructive seizure for forfeiture under this chapter;
- acquired the property knowing the property was subject to forfeiture under this chapter; or
- acquired the property in an effort to conceal, prevent, hinder, or delay its lawful seizure or forfeiture under any provision of state law.
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Asset Forfeiture and Asset Seizure Defense in Utah
To recover your property after asset forfeiture, it’s imperative to hire a skilled defense attorney. Levitt Legal, PLLC can represent Utah residents and out-of-state clients who have had property seized by Utah police.
Do not wait in seeking out legal counsel, as deadlines must be met for a successful outcome in your case. Call (801) 455-1743 or send us an online message to schedule a confidential, no-obligation consultation. We will review your situation and guide you through this confusing and trying episode.