Federal Drug Cases and Forfeiture of Assets

What Assets Can Be Seized?

One of the most serious consequences that accompanies a federal drug charge is the broad discretion law enforcement has to seize the assets of someone who is arrested for a federal drug crime.  The following assets are subject to seizure by the federal government if they can reasonably be linked to a suspect’s involvement with drug trafficking:

  • Illegal controlled substances.
  • Raw materials, products, and equipment used in manufacturing, compounding, processing, delivering, importing, or exporting illegal drugs or chemicals.
  • Containers used for drugs.
  • Aircraft, cars, trucks, boats, and other vehicles used for transporting drugs.
  • Books, intellectual property, data, etc. used for the production, sale, transportation, etc. of drugs.
  • Money, stocks, bonds, etc. used in illegal drug and chemical exchanges and all proceeds traceable to such exchanges.
  • Real property (homes, apartments, condos, vacation homes, flats, land, etc.) used in facilitating illegal drug production, sale, transportation, etc. if such an act could result in more than a year in prison (which is just about any federal drug offense).
  • Equipment used in the production of illegal drugs.
  • Drug paraphernalia.
  • Firearms used in the drug trade.

See 21 U.S.C. 881.

How Are Assets Seized?

Assets involved in a federal drug case can be seized through a warrant.  See 18 U.S.C. 981.  A warrant is not needed if there is probable cause to believe the property is subject to forfeiture and the property is seized in conjunction with a lawful arrest or search.  Rights to the forfeited property transfer to the United States Government once the illegal act is committed.

Practical Application

Typically the feds will conduct an investigation for about a year to determine who the players are in any drug conspiracy.  Once the investigation is complete arrests are made and everyone who is arrested has their bank accounts seized, houses seized, boats, cars, etc.  They are left with nothing and have to hire attorneys and otherwise defend against the claims without their resources to do so.

If you are facing federal drug charges, call our federal criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation at 801.618.1334.

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