What is civil forfeiture?
Civil forfeiture applies to the seizure of personal assets by law enforcement if there is reason to believe these assets are being used illegally. If your assets are seized, it’s important to have legal representation.
When did civil asset forfeiture begin? As of 2002, a police officer can seize £1000 and upwards from an individual, providing there is sufficient reason to believe the cash was illegally obtained or will be used illegally.
Because seizure involves criminal law, the prosecutor must hold sufficient evidence that the money was intended to be used illegally ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Once the assets have been seized, they can be held for up to 48 hours. However, a court order can be issued to permit the assets to be kept for longer. If this is the case, the funds will be held in a secure account that accrues interest until the court proceedings are complete.
Another option is cash forfeiture which is a civil matter rather than a criminal matter, meaning the court can only order forfeiture if there is evidence that the money was ‘more likely than not’ obtained illegally or going to be used for illegal activity.
Civil forfeiture and seizure are different from asset forfeiture. The term, asset forfeiture is used in conjunction with law enforcement confiscating assets from criminals who have obtained the cash through illegal means. It can also apply to situations where a private or corporate tenant has breached the contract of their lease. On the other hand, civil forfeiture applies to situations where law officials can confiscate funds temporarily, or potentially permanently before there is any court ruling that the individual has broken any laws.
Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws
On the basis of suspicion of illegal activity connected to the funds, UK law enforcement can seize cash including UK bank balances as of 2018. The application for seizure has to be made to the magistrate’s court and law enforcement may apply for permanent forfeiture of the seized assets if they are able to prove the probability of the money being sourced by criminal conduct.
What to do if you’ve been affected by asset seizure or forfeiture
If you are subject to asset seizure or asset forfeiture it’s important to seek expert legal advice immediately to make sure all the proceedings are legal and to find out whether and how you can recover your assets. An experienced fraud lawyer will be able to advise you on the next steps to take and represent you in court if needed.
Please contact our team of lawyers for advice on civil forfeiture.