Guide to Criminal Asset Forfeiture in Utah
If you were arrested for a serious crime, you likely have enough to think about and stress over. However, your arrest could become even more complicated if the police seized assets that were in your possession. Many people who have had assets seized have never recovered them despite whether they were found guilty of a crime or not. If you were arrested and your property was seized by law enforcement, you should consult with an experienced Utah criminal asset forfeiture lawyer today.
At Overson Law, PLLC, we are devoted to providing our clients with aggressive legal representation in their time of need. We recognize the impact a criminal conviction can have on your all aspects of your life, and we are ready to fight for you. To schedule a free legal consultation to discuss your case, contact Overson Law, PLLC, at (801) 758-2287, or contact us online.
How Asset Forfeiture Works
Asset forfeiture is when law enforcement seizes property belonging to people and determines that it qualifies as contraband. Many seizures of property occur during a traffic stop. Law enforcement may detain the driver, bring drug dogs, and use other tactics to determine whether a suspect has property that can be taken.
Utah law enforcement considers asset forfeiture as an important tool to fight back against drug cartels that may have a limitless amount of resources. Unfortunately, there are many innocent people that get swept up in law enforcement’s efforts to fight crime. In some cases, the property could even be seized from individuals that did not commit a crime.
Grounds for Seizing Property
In Utah, there are several factors that determine whether property can be rightfully seized by law enforcement. One of the primary factors is that the property must be seized by a peace officer or another individual authorized to operate as a law enforcement officer. A peace officer is only permitted to seize property under the following grounds:
- The seizure of property occurred during the arrest of a suspect
- The property taken was the subject of a criminal injunction or a forfeiture proceeding
- The peace officer has probable cause to believe one of the following possibilities
- The property in question is a hazard to health or safety
- The property can be used as evidence of a crime
- The property was or would have been used to perpetrate a crime
- The property seized was acquired as a part of a crime (i.e., a stolen vehicle)
Procedure for Seizing Property
When seizing property, a peace officer must use proper procedure to ensure the property is lawfully seized. One necessary procedure is providing the subject of the seizure with a receipt for their belongings. This receipt should state the property that was seized, the date and time of the seizure, and the name and contact information for the law enforcement agency that employs the peace officer.
It is also necessary for the subject of the seizure to be apprised about how the forfeiture process works. For example, if there is a certain timeframe where a person can challenge the forfeiture, they should be adequately notified of this information. Notifying an individual they have only a small window to contest a forfeiture could be a violation of their rights as they may not have enough time to retain an attorney. The person who had their property seized should also be informed about:
- The status of their property if they are convicted or acquitted of a crime
- How to make a claim with law enforcement to recover property that was seized
Additionally, law enforcement must also maintain the property of an individual once it is seized. Before it is determined whether the property is returned or permanently seized, law enforcement must keep an inventory of the property, document who owns the property, and must issue a case number for the property. These procedures help to ensure that property seized would not be commingled with other assets owned by law enforcement.
There are other important procedures for the seizure of property that residents or visitors to Utah should know about. Law enforcement can seize a wide range of property from personal property like money or tools to even real estate. If you believe your property was unjustly seized, you should act quickly and speak with an experienced attorney to determine an appropriate approach to have your property returned.
Call Our Utah Criminal Asset Forfeiture Attorney to Speak About Your Property Seizure
If you had your assets seized when police stopped you, contact an experienced Utah criminal defense attorney today. Criminal asset forfeiture can be a complex process that can make it difficult to determine how to reclaim your property. Our firm understands the uncertainty involved with criminal cases, and we can help alleviate some concerns. To schedule a free legal case evaluation, contact Overson Law at (801) 758-2287.