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. Our Utah criminal asset forfeiture attorney is here to help you.
The Difference Between Civil and Criminal Asset Forfeiture in Utah
The government may seize your property in Utah in both civil proceedings and criminal proceedings. However, the reasons for asset forfeiture are very different in each situation. Civil forfeiture is filed against the property itself rather than the owner. If you lose your civil suit, the government may seize some of your property to satisfy your debts to the other party. In this way, civil asset forfeiture contributes to the remedy or resolution of the case. However, seized assets could be put to a number of other uses.
On the other hand, criminal asset forfeiture is not so much a part of the resolution as it is a part of the punishment. If you are involved in a crime, the government can seize any property that they suspect was used during the crime or was obtained as a result of the crime. This seizure includes personal property as well as real property and intangible property. The government may keep your property upon your conviction for the underlying crime.
Another key difference between civil and criminal asset forfeiture is when the government takes your property and how it is disposed of. In a civil action, the government will only take your property after you lose your case. However, you do not necessarily need to be found civilly liable. The property may then be used as relief for the opposing party. It could also be put to use by government agencies or organizations, such as the police department. However, in a criminal case, the property will likely be seized as evidence before your trial begins. After you have been found guilty, the government may keep your property and dispose of it as they see fit. Often times, property seized in a criminal action is sold off and the money is used for public interest funds. If your property was seized in a criminal investigation, call our Utah criminal asset forfeiture attorney for assistance in getting your property returned to you.
How Criminal Asset Forfeiture Works in Utah
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.
Property is also often seized as part of criminal investigations. One common example is when the police search your home pursuant to a search warrant. The warrant allows them to seize items and property they reasonably believe to be evidence of a crime. A warrant usually includes things like guns, drugs, and even money. However, anything could be included in the search warrant. Once the property is taken, it is held as evidence to be used at trial. If the defendant is convicted, the police will likely keep the seized property.
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. If you believe your property may have been wrongfully seized, contact our Utah criminal asset forfeiture attorney as soon as possible.
Grounds for Seizing Property in Utah
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)
Law enforcement often justifies the seizure of property in criminal proceedings because it prevents people from benefitting from their criminal activities. The government believes that people who sell drugs, such as dealers and cartels, should not be allowed to keep any money they earned through their illegal activities. It makes sense that the government does not want to make crime profitable for anyone.
Sometimes the police get a bit overzealous when they seize property. It is not uncommon for people who were not involved in any criminal activity to have their property confiscated. For example, people who live with a member of a cartel, but are not a member themselves, may have their property seized anyway. Even if you are not involved criminally, the government can seize your assets through civil means. If the police seized your property and you want it returned to you, call our Utah criminal asset forfeiture attorney for help.
Procedure for Seizing Property in Utah
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. Our Utah criminal asset forfeiture attorney can help.
How Long Will the Police Keep My Property in Utah?
How long the police hold on to your property will depend on the outcome of the case. Generally, a guilty verdict means the government can keep your property forever. You may petition to have the property returned to you, but that decision will be within the discretion of the court. Once a trial is over, however, the government is able to keep your property until all direct appeals and any retrials are exhausted. It could be years before all appeals and retrials are finally over.
A faster way to get your property back is to prove that law enforcement no longer needs it. Essentially, you need to demonstrate that your property is not evidence of a crime, cannot aid the police in an investigation or trial, or is superfluous evidence. You might be able to argue that the police have other evidence that is better and more important than your property, so they do not really need to keep your property. Our Utah criminal asset forfeiture attorney can help you get your property returned to you.
Without the help of an attorney, there is no telling how long the police may hold your property. Law enforcement is not very keen on giving away their evidence, so they will likely resist when you demand the return of your property. Our experienced Utah criminal asset forfeiture attorney can help you get your property back.
Only Lawful Property May Be Returned in Utah
Having your property returned to you after it was seized by police pursuant to criminal charges is difficult as it is. While it is possible that your property can be returned to you, this is only the case when it was legal for you to own that property in the first place. Illegal items, like drugs or other contraband, will not be returned under any circumstances.
A common example of seized property is a firearm. While it is not illegal to own a firearm, there are certain procedures and criteria that must be satisfied before gun ownership becomes lawful. If the police seized your firearm, but you can prove that you owned it legally, the gun may be returned to you. However, if it is discovered that you owned the gun illegally, or you were ineligible to own a firearm, the police do not have to return it at all. If the police seized your lawfully owned property, contact our Utah criminal asset forfeiture attorney at Overson Law, PLLC.
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. It is sometimes difficult to know when the police must return your property or when they can keep it forever. 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.