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Atlanta Criminal Defense Attorney Discusses Forfeiture Laws

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Forfeiture Laws

Many people do not realize that forfeiture of property by government representatives happens with regular frequency. In Georgia, it is particularly easy for the government to seize and keep property. A person who has been arrested for drug charges may have his vehicle confiscated, even if this is the sole means of transportation for his family. Civil forfeiture can occur when the law enforcement investigators believe that property is being used in some type of criminal activity or was purchased through the proceeds of criminal activity. The forfeiture and sale of a person’s property can occur without that person ever being convicted of a crime.

Under state forfeiture laws, most seizures occur in conjunction with drug crimes, in accordance with O.C.G.A. § 16-13-49. The provisions require prompt action in order to assert an interest in the property. If the person does not respond to the notice of pending forfeiture within 30 days, then all rights, title, and interest in the property are forfeited to Georgia and the district attorney is permitted to dispose of the property. The manner of response also must be in accordance with the regulations or it will not be sufficient to stop the disposition of the property, including:

  • Assert a claim under the name and signature of the property owner by way of certified mail, with return receipt, or overnight mail, in compliance with the regulations;
  • Support the claim with an assertion that the interest is asserted to be true and accurate upon penalty of perjury;
  • Submit the claim to the law enforcement agency that initiated the forfeiture, as well as the district attorney who has jurisdiction over the matter;
  • Provide details about the property, specifically including about all ownership and/or security interests, as well as asserting why the property should not be forfeited. Each assertion must be supported by relevant facts.

One of the most unjust aspects of forfeiture is that there is no clear reporting organization that tracks forfeited property, so there is no definitive record of where the money goes after the property is sold.

If there is a case filed concerning the forfeiture of the property, it is a unique situation, where the property is the subject of the proceeding, rather than the person who is the owner or interest holder. One of the other unique aspects is that the burden of proof necessary to effectuate the forfeiture is much lower than other criminal cases. In order to proceed with the forfeiture, the government only needs to demonstrate that the person whose property is subject to forfeiture was involved in the crime and the property was related to the criminal activity by a preponderance of the evidence.

In addition to the potential for state forfeiture, the matter also may be referred to the federal government if there is the basis for a federal case. If there is a federal action, then there are many different types of property that can be forfeited, including bank accounts, real estate, and personal property. If the forfeiture occurs pursuant to a federal action, a person only has 20 days to respond to the notice of forfeiture before the property is lost.

The Abt Law Firm, LLC. Aggressively Fights for its Clients

Drug cases and other criminal activities can lead to many negative consequences, but often people are surprised when a property is lost as the result of forfeiture. It is important to act quickly if there is a risk of forfeiture.   The Atlanta Criminal Defense Firm of the Abt Law Firm, LLC. has the skill and experience to protect your interests in property, as well as mount a strong defense on the criminal charges. If you do not want a criminal record, call us immediately at (678) 582-2272 and we can help. We offer free consultations at our office, over the telephone, and are ready to come to you in jail.