Law enforcement officials may seize assets to introduce them as evidence when attempting to show individuals engaged in certain types of wrongful conduct. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s website, the Asset Forfeiture Section may seize property related to federal offenses involving financial institutions.
An indictment alleging bank fraud and money laundering may include a notice of intent that the government plans to file an action against you to forfeit your property. In many cases, however, a prosecutor must first obtain a conviction from the court. Officials may then order a forfeiture of property as part of a sentence. In some cases, however, officials may seize property before a conviction.
How may officials seize property before a conviction?
If you face serious felony charges, it could result in a preliminary asset seizure. As noted by Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, the U.S. Attorney General or a designee may seize property as part of an investigation or a discovery process.
According to the American Bar Association, the government may seize valuable property if an indictment connects it to unlawful conduct. Officials may, for example, seize money, real estate or securities if a prosecutor’s evidence shows an association with money laundering activities.
How do courts approve alleged unlawful asset seizures?
To seize assets, an indictment lists specific funds or property that officials allege defendants used to carry out certain offenses. Prosecutors must also first present evidence that the property intended for seizure helped complete an unlawful activity.
A prosecutor may attempt to prove that purchases of real estate or other assets reflect a money-laundering scheme designed to hide illicit funds. With a preliminary order and sufficient probable cause, officials may seize money or property that belongs to an alleged offender.