Asset Forfeiture

The white collar criminal defense attorneys at Fuerst Ittleman David & Joseph have extensive experience representing their clients in a wide variety of forfeiture cases at the state and federal level. FIDJ’s white collar lawyers bring their thorough understanding of criminal law and procedure, civil procedure, constitutional law and the rules of evidence into every forfeiture matter they handle, leading to highly competent representation and excellent results for our clients.

At the federal level, asset forfeiture law has two primary branches: criminal forfeiture and civil forfeiture. While both branches contain the word forfeiture, they are different and typically involve different proceedings and legal issues.

Criminal asset forfeiture is the more straightforward of the two varieties of forfeitures, and typically involves contraband, ill-gotten gains and instrumentalities which the government has seized as part of a criminal case. Examples of criminal forfeiture matters would be the litigation that ensues when the government seizes a house where drugs have been unlawfully manufactured, or the money held in a bank account of an unlicensed money transmitting business. In these cases, the criminal defendant will often waive his right to litigate the forfeiture portion of his criminal case, but third party owners of that property who have not been charged with a crime will often choose to litigate against the government to recover their property.

Fuerst Ittleman David & Joseph has significant experience filing and pursuing claims on behalf of such innocent third parties. The other variety of forfeiture action is civil asset forfeiture, which many times involves law enforcement seizing property on mere suspicion of a crime, and then requiring the owner to prove the property’s innocence. In these cases, the lawsuit is pursued in rem (filed against the seized property) on the theory that it facilitated a crime and is thus forfeitable to the government. Unlike criminal forfeiture cases, the government may pursue a civil forfeiture action against a piece of property without necessarily pursuing a criminal case against an actual person. Litigating such cases can be highly difficult because the government’s burden is so low: the government can seize property for forfeiture because the property is alleged to have facilitated a crime, even if the crime itself is never proven, and even if no person is ever prosecuted.

We have also handled forfeiture cases at the state level, most notably in cases where the South Florida Money Laundering Strike Force has facilitated money or property said to be the proceeds of a criminal act. The South Florida Money Laundering Strike Force – which is organized by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and includes 17 South Florida police departments – supports its activities in large part by seizing and forfeiting the proceeds of allegedly unlawful activity, making civil forfeiture cases at the state level in Florida critically important.

In all forfeiture cases, lawyers must have a well-rounded understanding of the applicable law, including criminal law, constitutional law, civil procedure, and the rules of evidence. The white collar criminal defense attorneys at Fuerst Ittleman David & Joseph bring a well-rounded understanding of the law to every case they handle, making the firm one of Florida’s leading asset forfeiture law firms.

If you need assistance pursuing a claim in a civil or criminal forfeiture action at the state or federal level, contact us for a free consultation by emailing us at contact@fuerstlaw.com or by calling us at 305.350.5690.