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Asset Forfeiture

Obviously, everyone worries about the statutory criminal penalties when charged with a crime. However, another consequence of committing a law violation is police may have the right to seize your money or property if they have reasonable suspicion it was produced from or used to commit a crime. Although asset forfeiture is related to your charges, it’s considered a separate process from your criminal trial. Meaning law enforcement can seize your property before a jury even gets the chance to convict you.

In the end, you will be responsible for not only your criminal trial but also the civil proceedings for any property or cash seized. These matters are complex and incredibly daunting to handle on your own. Instead of facing these complicated issues alone, we highly suggest you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to assist you.

Houston Asset Forfeiture Attorney | Harris County, TX

If you or someone you know has had their assets seized by law enforcement, contact Horak Law. Matthew Horak of Horak Law has dedicated years of his career to defending his client’s rights including their right to their own property and cash. He is well prepared to handle any asset forfeiture case and has the track record to prove it. Start a plan to return your assets and/or cash today by calling criminal defense lawyer Matthew Horak of Horak Law.

Call Horak Law to set up your first consultation free of charge with Matthew Horak. Horak Law is located in The Woodlands and Houston, but we accept clients throughout Texas including Fort Bend County, Harris County, Liberty County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, Waller County and Montgomery County, Texas.

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How Does Asset Forfeiture Work?

Under the Texas Controlled Substances Act, if you are arrested for a felony offense any property that was used during the commission of the offense or gained from the crime could be seized by law enforcement. The property used to commit the crime is referred to as contraband, which can range from cash to actual buildings/property to items.

Some examples of contraband that is subject to forfeiture under Texas laws include:

  • Weapons
  • Cell phones
  • Computers
  • Drugs
  • Drug paraphernalia
  • Buildings
  • Land
  • Money
  • Boats

It’s important to understand when your assets are seized it’s seen as a civil case brought against the property under the law.

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Where Does Asset Forfeiture Money Go?

One of the objectives of law enforcement is to investigate each case thoroughly for any evidence of criminal activity. During their investigations, officers may seize assets that are connected to a criminal offense under the Texas Controlled Substances Act. Most think of motor vehicles, cell phones, or other large assets when they think of forfeiture. However, officers aren’t limited to those items and can also choose to seize cash if they have reasonable evidence it’s connected to the drug crime.

The purpose of removing cash is to ensure the offender and their possible accomplices are not receiving any benefit from their criminal actions. Law enforcement will often seize cash before the criminal trial even begins, and in the end, this leaves the defendant vulnerable as they will have less compensation to contribute towards their defense. It essentially cripples the defendant’s case and can ultimately be the cause of a criminal conviction.

It’s also important to understand that there is a slight incentive for law enforcement to seek asset forfeitures. Any cash or items that will not be returned to the defendant can be used and/or sold to fund the law enforcement department. According to the Washington Post in 2014, more than $2.5 billion cases of cash seizures occurred between 2001-2014.

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Can You Get a Seized Car Back?

Law enforcement tend to seize motor vehicles if there’s any evidence they were used in the commission of a drug crime. Often these vehicles are utilized to hide controlled substances and/or deliver them to a certain place. Unfortunately, sometimes these vehicles are family cars and are used by multiple people, which can make vehicle forfeiture complicated.

For example, if you had a relative borrow your car for a few days and they used it to deliver a load of controlled substances, then there’s a chance police could seize the vehicle. Even though you had no knowledge of their intentions with their vehicle, it doesn’t matter. Law enforcement will not hesitate to seize it and you’ll have to go through the civil process to have it returned.

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How to Get Your Seized Assets Back

Thankfully, the Code of Criminal Procedure does allow defendants to have some of their assets returned if they meet certain conditions. If you pay a bond, you can get your seized assets back legally by the court. The cost of the bond will depend on the property’s fair market value. In order to qualify for a bond, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Seized property must be returned the day of the forfeiture hearing
  • You must agree to the decision by the court regarding your asset forfeiture

Some seized assets are not eligible for release even with a bond such as money or any property held as evidence. If you are found not guilty of the criminal case or the case is dismissed, then all your seized property will be returned to you.

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What is a Defense to Asset Forfeiture?

It can be difficult to defend an asset forfeiture case as the prosecutor is not required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the property was contraband, and the state does not require a conviction to seize your assets. Although it may be difficult to defend asset forfeiture, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. With the help of a skilled defense lawyer, you can utilize certain defenses in hopes of getting your property back.

One common admissible defenses to asset forfeiture is known as the “Innocent Owner” defense. You must prove the following if you’d like your property returned under the innocent owner defense.

  • Property was acquired before or during the crime, but you weren’t aware or had no reason to believe a law violation was taking place or about to take place
  • The property was acquired by the owner after the crime was committed, but before officers seized the property and there was no evidence to believe the property was considered contraband

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Additional Resources

Homeland Security Has Seized 2 Billion from Travelers | Washington Post – Visit the official website for the Washington Post to read an article by Justin Jouvenal about how homeland security has seized billions from American travelers over the years. Access the news article to learn what happens to the money, why it has increased during the pandemic specifically in airports, and other related information.

Forfeiture of Contraband | Texas Code of Criminal Procedures – Visit the official website for the Texas Statutes to read their Code of Criminal Procedures to learn more about asset forfeiture. Discover the legal definition of contraband, find out about other crimes subject to asset forfeiture, admissible defenses to asset forfeiture, and the proceedings for property removed from the state.

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Texas Asset Forfeiture Defense Attorney | Harris County, Civil Forfeiture

It can be incredibly stressful to deal with criminal charges, but to have your cash/assets seized on top of it all can feel maddening. Don’t attempt to defend yourself in such a complicated case where your money and/or assets are on the line. Contact Horak Law to speak to an experienced Texas criminal and civil asset forfeiture attorney Matthew Horak. He has assisted numerous people get their belongings or cash back and can do the same for you.

Call Horak Law today at (713) 225-8000 to set up your first consultation free. Horak Law is located in Houston and The Woodlands, Texas.

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  • Texas Board of Legal Specialization | Criminal Law
  • National College for DUI Defense
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Laywers
  • Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association
  • Matt Horak has earned recognition for community leadership by Lawyer Legion