Texas Asset Forfeiture Actions
Forfeiture actions have become common in drug cases and white collar crime cases. Additionally, Texas forfeiture law has been expanded to apply to any felony of the first or second degree in the Texas Penal Code, as well as numerous expressly listed offenses contained in other codes.
Allowing local law enforcement officials to keep a substantial amount of the proceeds obtained from seizing contraband for their own official use gives the police and prosecutors an improper incentive to overzealously pursue civil forfeitures. This asset forfeiture system often leads to corruption, particularly in Texas where the police and prosecutors are allowed to keep the property they seize.
San Antonio Asset Forfeiture Attorney
If any law enforcement officer seized your property, including a vehicle or currency subject to Texas’ forfeiture statute, contact a criminal defense attorney at Goldstein & Orr in San Antonio. We fight for the return of your property and assert defenses on the behalf of innocent owners. Act quickly to protect your rights. Call us today at (210) 226-1463 for a free phone consultation.
Overview of Texas Forfeiture Laws
- History of Civil Forfeitures in Texas
- Forfeiture Actions in Drug Cases
- Burden of Proof in Texas Forfeiture Actions
- Innocent Owner Defense to Forfeiture Actions in Texas
History of Civil Forfeitures in Texas
The civil-forfeiture system is an expression of the State’s Police power. State v. Richards, 157 Tex. 166, 301 S.W.2d 597, 601–02 (1957). The constitutionality of the Texas civil-forfeiture statute has faced numerous due-process challenges under the Texas Constitution.
More than 50 years ago, the Supreme Court of Texas upheld statutory civil forfeiture, even before the legislature added the innocent-owner defense.Furthermore, the United States Supreme Court overruled a due-process challenge to Michigan’s forfeiture statute which lacks an innocent-owner defense. Bennis v. Michigan, 516 U.S. 442, 446, 116 S.Ct. 994, 134 L.Ed.2d 68 (1996).
Forfeiture Actions in Drug Cases
In drug crimes, courts have considered the following factors when evaluating the sufficiency of the evidence supporting forfeiture:
- The amount of money at issue
- The proximity of the money to the drugs and to evidence of drug trafficking
- Evidence that the money was previously in contact with drugs
- Suspicious activity consistent with drug trafficking
- The presence of expert testimony indicating that there was a substantial connection or nexus between the property to be forfeited and the criminal activity
Burden of Proof in Texas Forfeiture Actions
Texas places the burden of proof on the state to show by a preponderance of evidence that property is subject to forfeiture. An affirmative defense exists for spouses who, because of family violence, are unable to prevent an act giving rise to a forfeiture. Article 59.05(b) and (c), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. And the case is governed by the rules of pleading and procedure for civil cases.
Most importantly, the state must commence judicial forfeiture within 30 days of the seizure. Article 59.04, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Property may be released to the owner or interest holder who secures the value of the property with a bond who also agrees to return the property to the State when the forfeiture hearing begins and agrees to abide by the court’s decision in the matter.
Innocent Owner Defense to Forfeiture Actions in Texas
Article 59.02(b), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Texas law also provides for an innocent owner defense which must be proven by the claimant by a preponderance of the evidence. Article 59.20(c), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.
Texas Forfeiture Action Lawyer in Bexar County
If a law enforcement officer took your vehicle, cash or currency or other personal or business property and provided you with notice of its intention to take the property subject to Texas’ civil forfeiture provisions, contact an attorney at Goldstein & Orr to contest the taking. We fight aggressively for the return of your property throughout Texas. Call us today at (210) 226-1463 to discuss your case.