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New York Asset Forfeiture Lawyers

If you’ve been charged with a crime, you may feel like everything is up for grabs – your house, your car, your livelihood, etc. New York law allows district attorneys to seize any kind of proceeds from a crime committed, such as cash or property, but they are not allowed to go after the tools used to commit the crime, except under special circumstances, such as drug cases.

In nearly every case, assets that are forfeited during this process are usually permanent, which means you’ll be unable to retrieve any of your possessions after the case is over. The prosecution will try to prove that your assets were used in the handling of the crime and that they need to be seized, although they may have a tough case in doing so. Still, if you’re facing seizure of property as the result of a crime, you should enlist the help of a trained lawyer that handles these types of cases.

Main Law Codes in Effect

Criminal forfeiture is a notoriously sticky business, and at the time, New York law doesn’t really have a vehicle by which to prosecute and seize property. The main one in effect is Penal Law Article 480, which defines felony convictions under the stipulations outlined in article 220 of the subsequent penal law. Though this does allow for some seizure of property, this article requires the prosecution to prove forfeitability without a shadow of a doubt. The burden of proof is much higher than other codes, such as Article 13-A and other forfeiture laws.

New York’s Organized Crime Control Act (OCCA) of 1986 discusses both civil and criminal forfeitures during enterprise corruption crimes, and, like article 220, requires the prosecution to prove it’s case beyond a reasonable doubt (though the standard isn’t as high as article 220). OCCA also allows the courts to ignore the findings of a jury and use its own judgment and findings in determining guilt if it deems it necessary. Though OCCA has wide-ranging powers in this regard, it is still reliant on a grand jury to make the decision to pursue property forfeiture in every case (article 13-a has no such grand jury requirement). In addition, the court may also order the prosecution to hand over any kind of information relevant to the discovery of these findings, up to and including the minutes from the grand jury meetings.

Due to the numerous legalities and high standards of proof that is contingent on the prosecution to properly outline an asset forfeiture case, the relevant laws for these types of situations are hardly ever put into practice. Furthermore, the state prosecution lacks the teeth necessary to handle lower-level cases, since misdemeanor offenses are not subject to forfeiture of proceeds. Neither are the tools used in non-drug felony cases; those are out-of-bounds for the prosecution to pursue in forfeiture cases. This is in contrast to federal offenses, which provides for seizure of all of the above. For this reason, a district attorney will most likely ask for the assistance of the federal government in order to seize property related to misdemeanors and non-drug related felonies.

We Can Help!

Fortunately, you don’t have to go at this alone. Navigating an asset forfeiture case can be a tricky situation, and even more so if you’re unfamiliar with the laws pertaining to the matter at hand. Don’t forget the strict limitations placed on the prosecution in order to seize your property; if you’re charged with a crime that may involve asset forfeiture, it’s important to know your rights and the actual probability of losing your belongings.

The most common situation is when a prosecutor includes a forfeiture of assets as part of a plea deal in return for not filing a civil lawsuit as it pertains to Civil Practice Law & Rules (CPLR) 13-A. No such general criminal forfeiture exists, which means a district attorney will be required, by law, to so file a separate civil lawsuit in the event that the defendant doesn’t take the plea.

Regardless, our experienced lawyers can help with any and all matters pertaining to asset forfeiture. With our help, you won’t have to feel like your property, or your rights, are at risk.

by Leonard on Spodek Law Group
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