You or a member of your family has been detained or arrested and a law enforcement officer has seized your money, your vehicle, or some other item of property and you have no idea how to get it back. Worse, maybe you’ve been served with legal papers, a “Citation” and a “Notice of Seizure and Forfeiture.” What do you do now?
The State of Texas, every year, seeks to forfeit millions of dollars in currency and property seized by law enforcement agencies. Asset forfeiture is “big business” for the State and for many local law enforcement agencies. The statute authorizing this process is very broad and not very protective of your rights. You will almost certainly need competent, experienced legal counsel to assist you in making the right decisions to protect your property.
This site is dedicated to introducing you to asset forfeiture in Texas and helping you understand the issues you face when the police seize your property and seek to forfeit your ownership of it.
Whether you are charged with a crime or not, or whether you are an “innocent owner” or lienholder in property the State seeks to forfeit, you should understand the issues involved in this legal process and seek competent, experienced legal counsel to assist you in protecting your rights.
The author of this website practices mainly in Houston and Harris and Montgomery Counties in Texas, and the issues of State-sponsored seizure and forfeiture are general to the practice of this hybrid criminal-civil procedure.
Asset forfeiture in Texas is generally covered by the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure in Chapter 59, titled “Forfeiture of Contraband.” The law provides for the definition of property subject to forfeiture (called “contraband” in the statute), who may claim the property, and the procedure for the state to seize the property and forfeit it. While forfeiture cases involve issues concerning criminal law, a forfeiture case is a “civil case” in Texas.
Article 59.01 of the Code of Criminal Procedure defines “Contraband” as “property of any nature, including real, personal, tangible, or intangible, that is used in the commission of any first or second degree felony under the Penal Code, any felony listed in the statute, along with a litany of other statutes which may justify forfeiture. And, there are other situations leading to forfeiture that may or may not apply to your situation. Forfeiture cases can arise whether you are charged with a crime or not, and the justification can range from driving while intoxicated to money laundering to evading arrest – and many other offenses in between.
“Contraband” also includes the proceeds gained from the commission of a felony listed in the statute or a crime of violence; or acquired with proceeds gained from the commission of a felony listed in the statute.
Even if you are an “innocent owner” of property, the State can still seek to forfeit it, and the burden is on you to prove that you did not know of the property’s unlawful use and that your interest is free of the taint of criminal activity.
This site has a number of articles that you may find helpful concerning Texas forfeiture law. However, this site is not legal advice – it is designed to help you understand the issues involved in this area of the law and to assist you in choosing a lawyer to help you with your case. You should always consult a competent licensed attorney before taking any action, or making any decision, about your rights in this area of the law.