Civil forfeiture occurs when law enforcement seizes property associated with a crime. In Seattle, the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) sections 10.105.010 and 69.50.505 regulate the seizure and forfeiture process, including the administration of civil forfeiture hearings. If the state has seized your personal property, vehicle or money, contact the Seattle civil forfeiture lawyers of Blair & Kim for a consultation to protect your legal rights.RCW Section 10.105.010 Civil Forfeiture Hearings
Under RCW section 10.105.010, any and all personal property is subject to seizure and forfeiture if: (1) it was used as an instrumentality to perpetrate a felony, (2) it was compensation for perpetrating a felony, or (3) it was used to aid or abet the perpetration of a felony. However, your property cannot be forfeited under this code section until the state has convicted you of a felony in connection with which the property was acquired, furnished, or employed. Forfeiture of property affected by a bona fide security interest can be subject to the secured party’s interest if the secured party did not know about or consent to the felony.
Any law enforcement officer can seize personal property that falls under RCW section 10.105.010 if a superior court with jurisdiction issues process. A civil forfeiture attorney in Seattle can explain the circumstances under which property may be seized without process, such as where the seizure is incident to arrest, where a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe the property has been used to perpetrate a felony or where a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe the property is directly dangerous to safety or health.
You may be able to challenge the seizure through a civil forfeiture hearing. In order to get a civil forfeiture hearing, notification of your claim of ownership or possession must be provided to the law enforcement agency that took the property. The hearing should be held in front of the chief law enforcement officer of the seizing agency or his designee. The case can be removed to a court of competent jurisdiction according to civil procedure rules.
If two or more people claim ownership of the property at the hearing, the prevailing party will be entitled to costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. Whoever claims to be the lawful owner or possessor of the property has the burden of producing evidence to that effect. If you prevail, the seizing law enforcement agency should promptly return your property.Civil Forfeiture Hearings Under RCW 69.50.505
RCW section 69.50.505 covers the seizure and forfeiture of items related to drug crimes, including drug paraphernalia; drugs and the chemicals meant for manufacturing them in violation of the Uniform Controlled Substance Act; raw materials, equipment and products used or meant to be used to create drugs; books or research materials used to create drugs; conveyances used to facilitate drug sales except under certain circumstances; real estate or land involved with drug crimes; and money or property or negotiable instruments gained from drug crimes.
The forfeiture of real property must meet certain criteria. For instance, no forfeiture of real property can occur in the event of a bona fide gift of a drug, imitation drug, or legend drug. Possessing marijuana cannot result in real property forfeiture unless it was possessed for commercial purposes that is illegal in the state, five or more plants were possessed or certain other circumstances. There is also no forfeiture of real property in connection with the illegal sale of marijuana or a legend drug unless 40 or more grams of marijuana were sold, or $100 or more was obtained in the sale of a legend drug, and a substantial connection exists between the sale and the real property. A Seattle civil forfeiture attorney can evaluate whether a property seizure complied with state law as well as explain the process for reclaiming ownership or possession of your property.
If you provide written notification to the law enforcement agency that seized your property of your claim of ownership or possession with 45 days, you are supposed to be given a reasonable opportunity to have your claim heard. Rules of service must be followed. The hearing will be conducted before the chief law enforcement officer of the seizing agency or the designee of that officer, except under certain circumstances. At the hearing, the law enforcement agency will need to show it’s more likely than not that the property that was seized is subject to forfeiture. You can remove the case to a court of competent jurisdiction using a particular process.Speak with an Experienced Seattle Lawyer
When the police improperly seize property, it may be possible to get it back in a civil forfeiture hearing. If you are concerned about police seizure of your property in Seattle, the dedicated civil forfeiture lawyers of Blair & Kim can help. We represent clients in Seattle, Redmond, Kirkland and Bellevue, as well as throughout King County. Call us at (206) 622-6562 or contact us through our online form to schedule a consultation.