It is commonly understood that, in the United States, you cannot be punished for a crime until you have either entered a guilty plea or been convicted after a trial. However, in the case of civil asset forfeiture, it possible for to be punished, even if you are never arrested.
Losing Your Assets Before Your First Court Date
Civil forfeiture laws allow law enforcement to seize property used or suspected to have been used in the commission of a crime. It is called civil forfeiture because the process is independent of the criminal justice system. In a criminal proceeding, a prosecutor must demonstrate a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. By comparison, all law enforcement has to do to keep property it has seized is to show that the property was used in the commission of a crime by a preponderance of the evidence,
A preponderance of the evidence is a much lower standard of proof than beyond a reasonable doubt. The difference between the standards means that you can actually be found not guilty of a crime but still lose your assets to civil forfeiture.
Under civil asset forfeiture you could lose your assets before you even have your first court date. Civil forfeiture in Illinois is not available for all crimes, and most of the covered crimes are felonies. In certain cases, however, if you arrested for DUI or for driving with a suspended license, you could lose the car you are driving under civil forfeiture laws. The car does not even need to be yours for it to be seized.
Choosing Your Battles
When you have been arrested, you will have many serious issues to consider, especially if your assets were also seized. You have the right to contest the civil forfeiture, but you also have to consider how fighting for your assets will affect your criminal defense. Do you have the resources to fight both at the same time?
It is important to speak with a criminal defense lawyer who also understands the impact civil forfeiture can have on a case. It may be in your best interest to focus on your criminal defense, as the disposition of your assets may not matter very much if you are sentenced to a long prison term.
If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced DuPage County criminal defense attorney. Call 630-933-8400 to schedule a free consultation with Salvatore C. Miglore & Associates today. We will work with you in making the best decision for your situation and will remain at your side throughout the process.