Seizure and Forfeiture of Assets in a Criminal Case

By Allen, Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer Kyle T. Therrian
Office Number: (972) 562-7549
24 Hr Jail Release: (214) 403-6522

If you have ever seen a decked-out police sports car – it was probably the spoils of a criminal investigation. Chapter 59 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure permits the local district attorney to “seize” assets which are deemed “contraband” and request that they be “forfeited” to the State so that it may be sold for profit or even transferred for the use of the local police force.

Chapter 59 says that “property that is contraband is subject to seizure and forfeiture . . .” This makes a whole lot of sense if contraband means property that is the proceeds of a criminal enterprise. But, the reality is that there is not much limitation on what qualifies as “contraband.”

Some examples of what the law considers contraband include any property used in the commission of: a first or second degree felony, a felony DWI offense, and any felony drug offense.

To be treated as contraband, the law does not require a conviction of one of these offenses. Forfeiture proceedings do not grant the defendant a presumption of innocence and the State’s legal burden is merely a preponderance of the evidence. This means that if the State can convince a judge or jury that a crime was probably committed and probably involved the listed property, the property will be forfeited.

There are a variety of defenses and defense strategies which can be employed to recover seized property. If nothing more, attempted forfeiture lends itself as an opportunity to learn a lot about the State’s concurrent criminal case. When a forfeiture action is met with unexpected resistance, the State must weigh their own cost and benefit of proceeding. If the former outweighs the latter, a quick and favorable resolution may be in store.

*Kyle Therrian is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice on any case you should contact an attorney directly.

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