Civil forfeiture is a procedure used by law enforcement officials and prosecutors at both the state and federal levels to take and keep individuals’ private property that has a link to criminal activity in some way. Texas Code of Criminal Procedure § 59.03 et seq. authorizes seizure and forfeiture actions. Civil forfeiture often is used in cases involving drug charges, where the property seized might be large sums of cash (proceeds of the sales of drugs), guns (used in drug-related crimes), and vehicles (used to transport drugs).
The most crucial part of civil forfeiture proceedings is to file an answer to any notice of civil forfeiture action prior to the Monday after 20 days have passed since the forfeiture. If you fail to make a claim to the property within this deadline, then the government automatically gets to keep the property.
Typically, the government attempts to subject property to forfeiture either because it constitutes proceeds from a crime or is something used in the facilitation of a crime. Under Texas law, the government must prove the connection between the property and the crime by a preponderance of the evidence, which is a higher standard than the probable cause that law enforcement officials likely used to get a warrant or to justify seizing the property.
You don’t have to be convicted of a drug offense or another type of criminal offense in order to have your property seized and forfeited. In fact, you don’t have to be arrested or charged with the crime. This is also the case if the charges against you are dismissed or you win the criminal case at trial. Regardless of the disposition of the underlying crime, civil forfeiture still can occur with respect to any property that prosecutors allege is related to criminal activity.
An experienced Texas drug defense attorney can help you build a strong defense against your criminal charges, as well as help you handle civil forfeiture actions that may arise from drug charges. Taking steps to get you released from jail and fight for your rights at the beginning of your case is typically easier than waiting until your case may be too far gone to fix. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.