Philadelphia Attorney for Defense of Criminal Forfeiture
Forfeiture is a weapon used by the government in virtually all white collar cases to obtain enormous judgments against defendants. Increasingly, the government seeks forfeiture in addition to restitution, resulting in double judgments in criminal cases. Few attorneys focus on this critical fact while preparing the case and, as a result, the government obtains crippling money judgments against criminal defendants. Federal criminal defense attorney Hope Lefeber focuses on this problem from the beginning of the case, always working to minimize the financial penalties for her clients.
Government authority to seize property connected to illegal activity comes from federal statutes and the Constitution. The following categories of property are subject to forfeiture:
- Contraband – property for which ownership itself is a crime (e.g. illegal drugs, smuggled goods)
- Proceeds from illegal activity – property that results from, or can be traced back to, illegal activity
- Tools or instrumentalities used in commission of crime – property used to commit a crime (e.g. cars, boats, real estate)
In addition, the government can seek a money judgment against a defendant and will seek to forfeit assets and wages that do not exist at the time of conviction but which the defendant earns or acquires in the future. The results can be devastating.
Although there are some occasions where the government seizes property pretrial, criminal forfeiture is a punitive measure usually taken against a defendant after a conviction. While the crime has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, forfeiture requires a lower burden of proof. The government only needs to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant obtained the property around the time of the crime and that it was unlikely it came from any other source. The burden then shifts to the defendant to prove this is not the case. In addition, federal law authorizes a forfeiture judgment in the total amount of the proceeds of the illegal activity, so the government often seeks a money judgment in cases where there is no specific property to seize.
When Forfeiture is Charged:
When forfeiture is charged in the indictment, defenses to the government’s action exist and must be vigorously pursued. Consult with Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer Hope Lefeber to discuss what options are available to you. Call 610-668-7927 or complete our online form today.