Car Seizure and Forfeiture Lawyer
Since the founding of the United States of America, the government has had the right to seize property belonging to citizens in cases where the property was believed to be linked to a crime. In Maryland, local and state authorities can seize vehicles and other types of property that are crucial for people’s livelihoods without the consent of the property owner. If police officers seized your car in Maryland, your situation could improve by working with a car seizure and forfeiture lawyer who serves Baltimore and surrounding areas.
Why Did the Police Take My Property?
Vehicle seizure can happen as a result of a civil or criminal process. There are two common reasons the police seize property in Maryland. The first is tied to bankruptcy, a civil matter.
Any person who files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy may be required to relinquish property, including a home or car, to the government as a way to reduce the losses incurred by lenders and/or creditors.
The second reason a vehicle and other property may be seized is that the assets were believed to have been gained from illegal activity or through unlawful means, or because law enforcement believes your car or other assets were involved in a crime.
Asset seizure forfeiture can involve more than just a vehicle. Types of property that Maryland police officers can seize include but are not limited to:
- Houses and investment properties
- Other modes of transportation (jets, boats, trucks, ATVs, motorcycles, and more)
- Cell phones
- Bank accounts
It’s important to realize the distinction between vehicle seizure and forfeiture. While seizure is an action the police can take to strip you of your car, forfeiture involves the government taking ownership of it.
What is Vehicle Forfeiture?
Vehicle forfeiture involves the government taking over the title to your property. The forfeiture of property is a two-step process. In forfeiture, the court transfers the ownership of the property to the federal, state, or local government. Forfeiture proceedings are independent of criminal proceedings and are not meant to be part of a sentence or criminal punishment.
- Seizure of property. This is the physical taking of your property and happens when police take your property because they have reasonable cause to believe it is somehow linked to a crime.
- Forfeiture of property. When the government forfeits your car or other property, they make a case to show why they should take ownership of it. Forfeiture litigation determines whether the title to the property, which is already in law enforcement’s possession, should be permanently transferred to the government. The prosecution must show the following to make this happen:
- The defendant used the property to commit a crime, or
- The defendant earned the property from illegal activity, or
- The defendant purchased the property with illegally-gained funds
Asset forfeiture can follow any conviction of a state or federal crime. A car forfeiture attorney can help you contest the seizure, and several defenses may be available to you.
Possible Defenses to Vehicle Forfeiture in Maryland
If the police took your car, it’s highly likely you immediately started to feel the hardship of living without personal transportation. Having a car is a necessity in Maryland, so it’s important to do everything possible to get your car back. With a competent vehicle forfeiture lawyer on your side, you can protest the seizure of your car.
Two ways your lawyer can argue that the seizure of your property was illegitimate include:
- The property was not involved in a crime. The main defense you can raise in a forfeiture proceeding is that your car was not used to commit or facilitate an illegal act.
- You were not aware of your car’s role in the commission of a crime. Sometimes, property owners don’t know that another party used their car or other property to commit or facilitate a crime. If, for example, you purchased a car from someone who committed an offense with what is now your vehicle, this defense may be viable.
Finally, an attorney can help you protect yourself from self-incrimination when testifying in a civil case. Your lawyer can also defend you against the underlying criminal charges that led to the seizure of your car. By reducing or eliminating the charge, it may be possible to void the forfeiture and get your car back.
You Can Count on Hillel Traub to Contest Your Car Seizure
Attorney Hillel Traub has served defendants facing criminal charges for traffic offenses in Baltimore for more than 20 years. Having worked as an Assistant Attorney General for the Maryland MVA, his unique knowledge and experience can provide your case with the edge it needs to succeed. If your car has been seized in or near Baltimore, you can count on him to provide a strong defense and help you get your car back.
Find out just how he can do that by calling (410) 580-1100 or complete our contact form for a 100% free case review.