27 Jul 23

Defenses to Federal and State Asset Forfeiture

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Last Updated on: 9th August 2023, 01:21 am

When an asset forfeiture occurs, police confiscate assets or property they believe have been or will be used in a crime. Thus, the purpose of this is to interrupt criminal activity. However, this does not give law enforcement the right to conduct unlawful property confiscation. Yet due to this tactic being used by police for intimidation purposes, it is crucial that if you are the victim of property confiscation by law enforcement, you immediately hire an attorney skilled in these cases. In doing so, they will analyze your situation, then develop a legal strategy using defenses specific to your case.

Illegal Search and Seizure
For police to conduct a search and confiscate items on private property, they are required to secure a search warrant signed by a judge. To obtain this warrant, the police must submit enough evidence to the judge linking any property for which they are searching with illegal activity. However, if police fail to show a warrant prior to conducting their search, or if they confiscate property that is shown to have no link to the crimes for which you have been charged, your attorney should be able to use this as reasons to have the charges against you dropped.

Failure to Provide 60-Day Seizure Notice
In some situations, asset forfeiture law states a written notice of confiscation must be submitted to a party within 60 days of the seizure taking place. Different from a search warrant, this notice is given to a property owner so they have ample time to file a claim that will protect their assets. If this notice is not provided, your attorney can use this as a viable defense in court. If it is determined no notice was provided, any property confiscated from you should be returned to you by the court. However, if you do receive a seizure notice, always hire an attorney as early as possible before the deadline, since this will give them a reasonable amount of time to plan a defense strategy.

Innocent Owner Defense
A viable defense strategy, this is considered the most difficult defense to prove in asset forfeiture cases. With this defense, your attorney will attempt to prove you were not aware any property owned by you was being used in commission of a crime, or that you never gave consent for the assets to be used in an illegal manner. To succeed with this defense, your attorney will have to carefully examine all aspects of the case, find holes in the allegations against you, then provide evidence showing you were in no way connected to the crimes.

Unreasonable Delay
If your property is confiscated and then held by authorities for an extended period of time, it is a good bet they do not have sufficient evidence against you. In these cases, hiring an experienced attorney can be of great benefit. By doing so, you can then file a lawsuit challenging the delay, which can often force police to admit they do not have sufficient evidence against you, leading to charges being dismissed.

Unreasonable Fines
Since New York law prohibits the government from leaving people in a helpless state due to property confiscation, it is also prohibited from levying unreasonable fines against you. If this has happened to you, your attorney can argue your rights as a property owner have been violated. If all goes well, you not only have the charges against you dropped, but also have your property returned.

Statutory Defenses
In certain situations, authorities may seize bank accounts when charging you with a crime. However, since there are certain types of bank accounts that are exempt from state and federal forfeiture, your attorney can use this as an excellent defense strategy. In doing so, once this is brought to the attention of the court, assets contained in these accounts are usually ordered returned to the defendant.

Since these matters can be extremely complicated and involve a variety of factors, always ensure you hire a lawyer with experience and knowledge handling these cases. By doing so, you give yourself the best possible chance of not falling victim to law enforcement intimidation tactics, as well as having your property returned in a reasonable fashion.

Don’t deal with Defenses to Federal and State Asset Forfeiture alone. Speak to the Spodek Law Group today.

Asset forfeiture is where the police or a law enforcement unit confiscates assets or property that is alleged to have been used in a crime, or it is going to be used to commit one. The purpose of asset forfeiture is to interrupt criminal activities. However, the law still protects citizens from unlawful property confiscation.

Mostly, this form of crime prevention is used to make the accused bend to the will of the law enforcers. Anyone faced with property confiscation should, therefore, be willing to hire an attorney who is well versed the in such matters. Explained in this article are the various defenses that can be used in such a case. If you are convicted, you might want to consider appealing the crime and speaking to a federal criminal appeals lawyer.

Illegal Search and Confiscation of Property

A legal document must be provided before searching or confiscating any private property. The legal document is proof that the state is aware of the search and has authorized forfeiture. Such a document must be signed by a recognized judge, and he must be provided with enough evidence that links the property to illegal activity or crime.

The hired attorney must do a thorough investigation. If there is no connection between the seized property and the crime, the lawyer should be able to prove it and have the charges dropped. Also, if no legal papers were provided during the confiscation, then this could also serve as a reason for having the charges dropped.

Failure to Provide Notice within Sixty Days of the Seizure

It is a law under asset forfeiture that a notice of confiscation must be submitted within sixty days of the seizure itself. The purpose of this is to return the property owner ample time to file a claim and protect their money or assets. During this period, the defendant should make sure they hire an attorney who can work relentlessly to stop the property forfeiture.

If such notice was not provided, it can be used in court as a defense. Failure to provide such a notice is regarded as breaking the law, and the seized property should be returned to its owner.

Innocent Owner Defense

According to, an attorney can use the innocent third party defense in a court of law. They prove to the judge that their client was not aware of their property being used to commit a crime, or that consent was not given for the illegal use of their assets. A lawyer, however, has to work hard to prove this. That means looking into all the holes that can be found in the charges and provide evidence to show the accused is in, no way, connected to the alleged crimes. If the attorney can be able to prove this, the property will be returned to the owner and all the charges dropped.

Unreasonable Delay Defense

There is a limited time when it comes to a government holding someone’s property without taking the case to court. When the delay is too long, it makes it impossible for the asset owner to fight for their property. At such a point, it is advisable for the accused to file a case themselves. They can then use the opportunity to challenge the delay, hence turning it into a good defense to have all the forfeiture charges dropped. An excellent attorney can use this argument to prove to the court that the accusers do not have enough evidence to link the seized assets to the alleged crime.

Unreasonable Fine

The law protects people from being left utterly helpless due to the seizure of property. It, therefore, means that the government cannot subject the accused to disproportional fines. Doing so would be regarded as breaking the law and violating the rights of the property owner. In case the owner of the forfeited assets is asked to pay an unreasonable fine, his or her lawyer can use this as a defense in a court of law. If the attorney brings out this point well, the charges can be dropped, and the seized property returned.

Statutory and Other Defenses

There are other defenses that can be used in court. For example, there are some bank accounts that are exempted from state or federal forfeiture. In case the government seizes assets from such an account, an attorney can bring the court’s attention to the nature of the matter and have the assets returned.

Another case that can be used as a defense is when the seized property is linked to a misdemeanor offense.


Although law approves all the discussed defenses, their success can only be determined by an attorney’s ability to prove them. It is, therefore, crucial for one to carefully choose a lawyer. One who is experienced in such matters is always the best choice. Another way of selecting an exemplary attorney is by getting referrals.