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Fighting Civil Asset Forfeiture in Federal Money Laundering Cases in California

Fighting Civil Asset Forfeiture in Federal Money Laundering Cases in California

Civil asset forfeiture laws allow the government to seize your property if they suspect it’s connected to criminal activity – even without charging or convicting you of a crime. This seems really unfair, right? I totally get why you’d be frustrated if this happened to you. Let’s talk about how these laws work in California, and what you can do to fight back if your stuff gets taken.

What is Civil Asset Forfeiture?

With civil asset forfeiture, law enforcement can permanently take your property – like your car, cash, home, or business – if they think it’s tied to a crime like drug trafficking or money laundering. They don’t need to prove you’re guilty first. Seems kinda sketchy, yeah? The tricky part is that it’s a civil case against your stuff, not a criminal case against you. So you don’t get all the normal protections like “innocent until proven guilty.” More on that later.

How Asset Forfeiture Works in California

Here’s the deal in California:

  • Cops only need “probable cause” to take your property – that’s a pretty low bar
  • The state has to notify you within 60 days and give you a chance to challenge it in court
  • But you have to prove your innocence – it’s guilty until proven innocent!

It’s not fair at all. The government can take all your stuff without even charging you with a crime! And then they make you jump through hoops to get it back. Smh.

Fighting Back in State vs. Federal Cases

Fighting asset forfeiture in state vs. federal cases is a little different:

State Cases

California recently passed laws to make state asset forfeiture tougher. Now state agents need to:

  • Prove “clear and convincing evidence” your property is connected to a crime – not just “probable cause”
  • Actually convict you of a crime related to the seized assets (with some exceptions)

So if it’s the state trying to take your stuff, you have a better shot at beating them in court under the new laws. Get a lawyer who really understands the changes!

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
Just had my Divorce case settled 2 months ago after having a horrible experience with another firm. I couldn’t be happier with Claire Banks and Elizabeth Garvey with their outstanding professionalism in doing so with Spodek Law Group. Any time I needed questions answered they were always prompt in doing so with all my uncertainties after 30 yrs of marriage.I feel from the bottom of my heart you will NOT be disappointed with either one. Thanks a million.
Brendan huisman
Brendan huisman
Alex Zhik contacted me almost immediately when I reached out to Spodek for a consultation and was able to effectively communicate the path forward/consequences of my legal issue. I immediately agreed to hire Alex for his services and did not regret my choice. He was able to cover my case in court (with 1 day notice) and not only was he able to push my case down, he carefully negotiated a dismissal of the charge altogether. I highly recommend Spodek, and more specifically, Alex Zhik for all of your legal issues. Thanks guys!
Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
Thanks again Spodek law firm, particularly Esq Claire Banks who stood right there with us up to the finish line. Attached photos taken right outside of the court building and the smile on our faces represented victory, a breath of fresh air and satisfaction. We are very happy that this is over and we can move on with our lives. Thanks Spodek law 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼❤️
Keisha Parris
Keisha Parris
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko Beauty
Taïko Beauty
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
Anthony Williams
Anthony Williams
Hey, how you guys doing? Good afternoon my name is Anthony Williams I just want to give a great shout out to the team of. Spodek law group. It is such a honor to use them and to use their assistance through this whole case from start to finish. They did everything that they said they was gonna do and if it ever comes down to it, if I ever have to use them again, hands-down they will be the first law office at the top of my list, thank you guys so much. It was a pleasure having you guys by my side so if you guys ever need them, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give them a call.
Loveth Okpedo
Loveth Okpedo
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Bee L
Bee L
Amazing experience with Spodek! Very professional lawyers who take your case seriously. They treated me with respect, were always available, and answered any and all questions. They were able to help me very successfully and removed a huge stress. Highly recommend.
divesh patel
divesh patel
I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.

Federal Cases

The feds don’t play by California’s rules. Federal agencies like the FBI can still take your stuff without charging or convicting you under “equitable sharing.” Here’s how it works:

  1. Feds seize your property for suspected criminal activity
  2. They “share” it with local police – who get 80%!
  3. You have to prove in federal court your stuff wasn’t connected to any crimes

See what they did there? The state laws don’t apply. And federal civil forfeiture has fewer protections for property owners. So you really need an experienced federal defense lawyer to get your stuff back from the feds.

How Lawyers Can Help

Trying to win your property back without a lawyer is really tough. The laws are confusing, and the government has way more resources on their side. A good defense attorney can be a game changer:

  • Review the details of your case and pinpoint weaknesses
  • Negotiate with the agency to return some or all of your property
  • File motions challenging improper seizures
  • Represent you in court if they can’t get your assets back out of court

Having an experienced asset forfeiture attorney makes it way more likely you’ll get your cash, car, home, or business back. Don’t let the government bully you – fight back!

Real-Life Examples

Here are some real cases where people beat asset forfeiture in California with good lawyers:

Cash Seizure Beaten

Tony Jalali was pulled over in Anaheim for tinted windows (lame reason, right?). Cops searched his car without permission (sketchy) and found $57,000 cash. They seized it, suspecting drug trafficking despite no evidence. But with his lawyer’s help, Tony got his money back and sued the police for violating his rights. Boom! [1]

Marijuana Dispensary Protected

The DEA raided a licensed California pot dispensary and took their inventory and cash, trying to bypass state law. But their lawyer convinced a judge it violated the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment. The dispensary’s assets were returned! [2]

Home Returned to Innocent Owner

Ming Wei’s house was seized when her son was busted for selling weed there. But Ming didn’t know about the illegal activity! With her lawyer’s help, she stopped the forfeiture in court and kept her home, despite her son’s crimes. [3]

See? With the right lawyer, you CAN win – even when the odds seem stacked against you. Don’t let them bully you.

You Have Rights

Even if your property was seized, you still have rights. Don’t let them scare you into giving up. Call a lawyer experienced in fighting asset forfeiture, and start pushing back. Be smart, know your rights, and make them prove their case against you in court!

You can beat this. People win asset forfeiture cases in California all the time, especially with badass lawyers in their corner. Don’t make it easy for them. Fight back and get your stuff back!


  1. Anaheim pays $185,000 to settle suit over seizure of $57,000 from man — but admits no wrongdoing
  2. Judge Orders U.S. Return $100,000 Taken From California Marijuana Dispensary
  3. Victory in civil asset forfeiture case – Ming Wei keeps her home
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