The laws in Massachusetts surrounding civil forfeiture
are among the worst, perhaps THE worst, in the country. A quick web search for "Massachusetts civil forfeiture laws" will reveal this fact, along with numerous state bills that have been filed, yet time and time again shut down, to change these unfair laws.
Just like in every state, the government does NOT need to prove that you committed a crime, or even charge you with a crime at all, to seize your assets, file a lawsuit, and pursue the taking of your property, permanently. In many cases where a criminal prosecution WAS brought, and the person was either acquitted or the charges were dismissed, the government can (and will) STILL pursue the civil forfeiture of that person's money or property; and they'll be successful more than 90% of the time. That is because the legal standard for civil forfeiture is extremely low here in Massachusetts. If law enforcement comes across money or property in your possession, and there is a reasonable basis to think that this money or property was derived from, or in any way connected to, criminal activity, the government can seize it and file a civil lawsuit to keep that money or property. However, in MOST states, in order for the government to succeed at trial, they most show by a preponderance of the evidence, or that it's "more likely than not" (51% likelihood) that your money or property was in some way connected to illegal activity. In Massachusetts, however, the standard is much lower; the government only needs to show a plausible connection to illegal activity. This is why, in Massachusetts, more than 90% of cases involving seized property result in the permanent forfeiture of all such property; meaning, people never get even a fraction of the property returned to them.
There are often strategic reasons for not filing a motion to intervene (the first step in trying get your property back) in the forfeiture lawsuit. First, you cannot contest the civil forfeiture but then plead the 5th; you will be subject to answering detailed interrogatory and deposition questions, responses to requests for production of documents (including bank records, tax returns, etc.) under the pains and penalties of perjury. Unlike in a criminal case, where you have the right to remain silent and your silence cannot be used against you, that is NOT the case in a civil lawsuit. It is essentially YOUR burden (especially with the unfair laws here in Massachusetts) to PROVE that the seized money or assets was in no way connected to illegal activity. Further, the costs of filing a motion to intervene and then pursuing the return of money/ property is extremely time consuming and expensive. At Urbelis Law, we fight these cases on a contingent fee arrangement with the client, meaning that we do not get paid unless we recover for you, taking a % of that recovery. For that reason, we will not get involved unless there is a significant enough value of property or currency worth pursuing on our end, given the time and resources it takes to litigate these matters.
The good news is that when you retain a law firm known for vigorously pursuing the return of your money and property, the chances of success are exponentially higher. At Urbelis Law, while we are selective in terms of which cases we accept, we have a 100% SUCCESS RATE in getting at least some return of property for our clients. Given the extremely low legal standard for the government to seize your property in Massachusetts (which is reflected in the trial instructions that a jury must follow), a settlement for less than the full amount of the seized money or property is often the best result in this type of lawsuit. We will walk you through the ins and outs of the government's civil complaint, have confidential dialogue with you about the implications of going on record in contesting the government's allegations, and help you assess all of the considerations in proceeding with the case. Since our firm's compensation is strictly a % of the amount we recover for you, our interests are aligned with yours; we want to get the highest return possible. However, we will always fully advise you of the potential criminal exposure you may face from going too deep into the litigation process; nothing is more important than protecting your freedom, and no one knows that better than dedicated criminal defense lawyers like us.
For a free initial consultation to discuss your Massachusetts civil forfeiture matter, call us at (617) 830- 2188.