The Oklahoma Legislature and the U.S. Congress have authorized the seizure and forfeiture of assets which are obtained with criminally derived proceeds or when the asset is used to facilitate a crime. The best examples are the seizure of a car used to transport illegal drugs, seizure of money associated with drugs or other crimes, the seizure of a farm used to grow marijuana, or seizure of weapons. There are many grounds for seizure under both state and federal law. The standards are different for federal and state courts, so it is important to know what agency seized the property and to know the federal and state forfeiture laws.
To forfeit the seized property under state or federal law, notice must be given to the owners and a due process hearing held before the ownership can pass to either the state or federal governments. The Wyatt Law Office has represented dozens of persons challenging the forfeiture and claiming innocent ownership of the property. There are several defenses to forfeiture depending on the circumstances. We can help you examine the issues, develop defenses and determine whether to pursue the assets in a forfeiture action or refer you to other counsel.
Under federal law, it is routine to see a criminal forfeiture “charge” filed along with other substantive charges. For example, in drug cases, the U.S. Attorney will charge the drug conspiracy but also will charge a “forfeiture” count seeking to forfeit any ill-gotten gains from the so-called criminal activity (i.e., the drug conspiracy or enterprise).
It is critical to understand that “forfeiture” and “restitution” are two entirely different concepts. Restitution is intended to restore a victim to his previous state before the crime. Forfeiture, on the other hand, is a “taking” by the government of any proceeds or benefits of a criminal act. Generally, forfeited funds or assets are NOT applied to restitution.
As of November 2014, if you are charged with a third felony DUI or APC, the State can forfeit your car. That means that in addition to other punishment and driver’s license suspension, the State can try to take away your car. While we don’t know if there is an “innocent spouse” defense when the car is owned jointly, it is likely not available because the spouse is theoretically aware of the prior DUI or APC offenses. (APC is “actual physical control” of a vehicle while under the influence — merely possessing the keys and having access to the car is sufficient). See our DUI page.
Call the Wyatt Law Office at 405.234.5500 to reach your Oklahoma Asset Seizure & Forfeiture Lawyers and Attorneys. Your future is our business.
Evidence Suppressed & Property Returned in Federal Court. Bob Wyatt and Scott Graham teamed up arguing and convincing the federal court to suppress evidence obtained after a “routine” traffic stop pursuant to an open air drug dog sniff search. All property ordered to be returned except any “contraband.” *
$200,000+ “Seized Money” Returned to Client. In December 2002, Wyatt secured the return of over $210,000 to his client from the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (i.e., Oklahoma Highway Patrol). The money had been seized during a traffic stop in Eastern Oklahoma. After litigating the issues for five months, the full amount of the money was returned.*
Verdict for Client. Client’s brand new pickup was seized when drugs were found in the vehicle during their son’s traffic stop for DUI. The officer found marijuana and a pipe in the truck. Because the truck was owned “free and clear,” the State filed a forfeiture action claiming that the truck was used to maintain drugs and drug activity. Mr. Wyatt filed an action on behalf of the parents as “innocent owners.” The trial judge ruled in favor of the clients. The OHP and DPS appealed, but the Court of Appeals agreed with the trial judge. The clients retained possession of their new pickup. See, State ex rel Dept. of Public Safety v. 1988 Chevrolet Pickup, 852 P.2d 786 (Okla. 1993) (appeal filed by Craig Dodd, but Bob Wyatt was the trial lawyer who won the case initially).*
Note: Results may vary because each case must be decided on its own unique facts and the law applicable to that given case. You should not infer the likelihood of success on a given case based on past cases handled by this firm.