Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorneys in Myrtle Beach, SC
If the police seized your money, your home, or your car, you may need an asset forfeiture attorney to help you get it back.
In many cases, people don’t challenge asset forfeitures and they just allow the police to take their money. If you aren’t sure whether you have a case, you should call the asset forfeiture lawyers on the Axelrod team immediately for a free consultation to find out if we can help.
You may have claims or defenses that you are unaware of, including a claim as a bona fide innocent owner of the property, a lack of probable cause for police to seize the property, a legitimate source for the money that was seized, or a claim based on the unconstitutionality of SC’s forfeiture statutes as applied to your case.
Why Should I Call the SC Forfeiture Attorneys at Axelrod and Associates?
When you call the asset forfeiture lawyers on the Axelrod team for help recovering your money or property from the police, we will:
- Meet with you to discuss your case and determine whether our firm is the right fit for you,
- Investigate the forfeiture and gather any evidence or witnesses needed to prove your claim or defense,
- Investigate and defend you against any criminal charges that accompanied the forfeiture and determine how the criminal charges will affect the forfeiture proceedings,
- File an Answer (and possibly counterclaims) to the State’s asset forfeiture Complaint,
- File a lawsuit against the State to recover your property if the State did not file a forfeiture Complaint,
- Negotiate with the State to recover your money or property,
- When appropriate, present your case to either a judge or jury at your forfeiture hearing when the State does not return the property or settle your claim, and
- When appropriate, appeal a denial of your claim to SC’s appellate courts.
What is Civil Asset Forfeiture in SC?
In some cases, asset forfeiture in SC is highway robbery, plain and simple.
If there are no accompanying drug charges, and there is no probable cause for the seizure, what should we call it when a person armed with a gun stops your vehicle on the highway and takes your money? Highway robbery…
Civil asset forfeiture allows the government to seize property or assets that are used in the commission of crimes. In theory, it is supposed to deprive drug traffickers and other criminals of 1) the profits they obtained from criminal activity and 2) the means to continue their criminal activity.
In practice, it has become a "slush fund" for police departments in SC and across the country, with officers receiving recognition and rewards for seizing the most money from motorists. Asset forfeiture laws have long been abused by police departments who have come to rely on them as a source of funding for personnel and equipment.
What Kind of Property can the Police Seize as a Forfeiture in SC?
Under SC’s forfeiture laws, police can seize a range of property from citizens including:
- Cash money,
- Bank accounts, securities, money orders, or any financial instruments that are of value,
- Real estate like homes, apartments, or land that is used to facilitate drug sales,
- Motor vehicles, planes, helicopters, boats, trailers, or other vehicles used to facilitate drug sales,
- Any other material or equipment that is used to transport, manufacture, deliver, or store drugs.
How Do I Get My Money or Property Back from the Police?
Law enforcement is supposed to file a lawsuit – a forfeiture action – after they take your property, to get the court’s approval for their seizure.
The State must first establish that there was probable cause that the money (or vehicle, home, or other property) was used to facilitate drug sales – for example:
- A car that was used to transport drugs,
- A home that was used to store drugs,
- Money that was found "in close proximity" to drugs, or
- Money that is proceeds from drug sales.
If the State can establish probable cause, then you still have the opportunity to prove that they are wrong and that the money or other property came from a legitimate source or was not used to facilitate drug sales.
- Police seize cash that was found "in close proximity" to drugs, but you can present records or testimony that proves the cash came from your job as a server or other cash-based income, or
- Police seize your car because they say your son was using it to sell drugs, but you can prove that 1) it is your car and 2) you were unaware of the drug sales and did not entrust your son with the car for the purpose of selling drugs.
When the State files a forfeiture Complaint, you have a strict deadline to file an Answer and counterclaims – call your forfeiture attorney immediately to find out what your options are.
If the State does not file a forfeiture Complaint, then you can file a lawsuit against the State asking the court to return your property – again, call your forfeiture attorney immediately to find out what your options are.
FAQ for Civil Asset Forfeiture Lawyers in Myrtle Beach
If the police have seized your property, you may have questions about how asset forfeitures work in SC and how you can get your property back. Our intent is to provide general information here, and you should contact your SC civil asset forfeiture attorney on the Axelrod team immediately for answers and advice that is specific to your case.
How Much are the Attorney Fees for an Asset Forfeiture Case?
In cases involving the seizure of substantial amounts of cash, the attorney fees may be 1/3 of the total amount recovered, or more, depending on the total amount of funds that were seized.
In other cases, there may be a flat fee or another fee arrangement based on the type of forfeiture, the circumstances of the forfeiture, and the likelihood of success in prosecuting or defending your forfeiture case.
What is "Policing for Profit?"
When law enforcement agencies come to rely on forfeiture funds for their operations and they routinely target motorists with the intent of finding and seizing cash, we call that "policing for profit."
What is a Bona Fide Innocent Owner?
If you own a vehicle, home, or other property that was seized from someone else, you can prove that you are the bona fide owner, and you can prove that you were unaware of any criminal activity that was the basis for the seizure, you are a "bona fide innocent owner," and we should be able to recover your property.
Is Civil Asset Forfeiture Constitutional?
Civil asset forfeiture laws are unconstitutional when:
- They violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibitions on excessive fines,
- The burden of proof is on the property owner,
- The system for seizing and distributing forfeiture funds incentivizes law enforcement or prosecutors (forfeiture should not be a for-profit endeavor), or
- There is no meaningful pre- or post-seizure judicial review of the forfeiture.
If police have seized your money or other property as a civil asset forfeiture, you should immediately contact the Myrtle Beach civil asset forfeiture attorneys at Axelrod and Associates for a free consultation to find out how we can help.