Forfeiture actions in Missouri allow law enforcement officials to take control of assets of people convicted of crimes. Law enforcement must demonstrate the use of property in the commission of a criminal offense or that possession of the property is the result of criminal activity. Law enforcement officials commonly use asset forfeiture to disrupt the actions of criminals who prey on the most vulnerable by committing crimes like setting up drug operations and committing fraud through white-collar crimes.
Types of asset forfeiture
Three types of forfeiture are legal under state and federal criminal law guidelines. The first type is criminal forfeiture. This forfeiture happens in conjunction with other criminal prosecution efforts against a defendant. The government must indict the property said to be part of the criminal activity to set a criminal forfeiture in motion. The defendant enjoys the right to counter the indictment in court.
Civil forfeiture allows law enforcement to seize property connected to criminal activities without the need for a conviction. Defendants can contest a civil asset forfeiture in court, and the burden is on the government to prove the property represents ill-gotten gain.
An administrative forfeiture becomes relevant when the defendant does not contest attempts to seize property used to facilitate criminal activity. Examples of property that can become subject to administrative asset forfeitures include a vehicle used to transport narcotics or merchandise that is illegal to import into the United States. Real estate is exempt from administrative asset forfeiture.
What happens to forfeited funds?
Forfeited property is either returned to victims of crimes or used for public benefit. The state auditor in Missouri is required to keep track of the use of seized property and funds in the state. Some critics argue that the reporting requirements have not compelled officials to transparency regarding what happens to the money and property taken by the state.
The federal criminal law guidelines is one of the many consequences people accused of criminal activity face. Criminal defendants will need to mount a defense for themselves to protect their liberty, property and good name in court. A criminal defense attorney may be able to help with these goals.