Texas civil forfeiture laws allows law enforcement authorities to seize people’s property in certain situations without a warrant and without them ever being convicted of a crime. More specifically, the law permits law enforcement to seize any contraband or instrumentality that was used in or acquired from the commission of a crime. This can include assets such as money, bank accounts, firearms, vehicles, homes, and most other types of assets.
Under Texas law, all first and second degree felony offenses are subject to asset forfeiture proceedings, as are a number of other crimes specifically listed in the statute. Forfeiture proceedings are particularly common in cases involving drug offenses and white collar crimes.
Asset forfeiture proceedings are civil, not criminal, in nature. The state must initiate an asset forfeiture action within 30 days of the seizure of property. In many cases, the property owner may have the property returned to them if he or she pays a bond to secure the value of the property. The property owner also must agree to return the property to the state at the time of the forfeiture hearing. If the state prevails at the forfeiture hearing, then the property is forfeited and now belongs to the state.
The question in an asset forfeiture proceeding is not whether a person committed a crime, but whether the property was involved in or derived from a crime. The state need only prove by a “preponderance of the evidence,” which is a far less stringent standard than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal proceedings, that a seizure is legally valid. The owner of the property, in turn, has the burden of proving that the asset was not used in or acquired from the commission of a crime.
If you or a family member is facing any type of criminal charges or has had property seized pursuant to a civil asset forfeiture, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.