When you are accused of a crime, prosecutors will file criminal charges against you. In a criminal case you have certain constitutional protections and the State must prove every single element of a criminal case "beyond a reasonable doubt." This is the heaviest burden of proof that the Law can impose.
But often, someone accused of a crime has more legal difficulties to deal with than just a criminal case. The prosecutor may also file a forfeiture case in which the prosecutor attempts to seize property that is allegedly connected - directly or indirectly - with criminal activity. A forfeiture proceeding is a civil case, not a criminal case. This means that you lose a lot of important constitutional protections, including the right to free counsel. It also means that the prosecutor has to prove their case by "a preponderance of the evidence." This is one of the easiest standards to satisfy under the Law.
Things that you or your family say, or do not say, in the forfeiture case can have a devastating impact on your criminal case. So, a forfeiture case can help to land someone in jail. That is why it is important to have an attorney who understands both criminal law and civil forfeiture proceedings involved in both matters. But, can foreiture proceedings help keep someone out of prison?
Having an attorney with criminal defense and forfeiture defense experience will help protect your property, and keep the State from obtaining evidence in the forfeiture case which it can then use against you in the civil case. However, having an experienced attorney involved in both cases also gives an attorney the chance to think outside the box, and use the forfeiture matter as leverage in defending criminal charges.
Consider the case of Derek Ragan, a convicted drug dealer and gambler, who was facing more than 40 years in prison after police raided his restaurant. Prosecutors alleged that he was running an illegal gambling house and seized almost $1 million in cash from the restaurant. In a creative plea deal, Ragan agreed to forfeit the money seized by police, and rather than spending decades in prison, he received probation.
If you have received a notice that authorities are trying to freeze or seize the property of you, or someone you know, you should immediately contact a lawyer who has experience with criminal defense and forfeiture proceedings in Philadelphia. Mike Parkinson and Tim Tarpey are criminal defense attorneys and former Philadelphia Assistant District Attorneys who have extensive experience in criminal and civil forfeiture cases. Speaking with an experienced criminal defense attorney is the only way to understand your rights and protect yourself, your family, and your hard earned property. Call today for a free consultation at (215) 352-3432.