Appendix D: Asset Forfeiture Investigation

AuthorKen Wallentine
Appendix D: Asset Forfeiture Investigation
Asset forfeiture is a tool to assist law enforcement to curb
the flow of illegal drugs in our communities. Americans spend
an average of more than $60 billion on illegal drugs each
year. Asset forfeiture helps take away the profit incentive in
drug dealing, reduce the financial base for maintaining and
expanding drug operations, and apply drug dealers’ profits
to public programs. A bank robber cannot keep the money
stolen from a bank. Why should a drug dealer or illegal
arms merchant be allowed to keep profits from sales of con-
An asset forfeiture case is a civil lawsuit against prop-
erty, not persons. A drug dealer can be charged with the
underlying crime at the same time that the drug dealer’s
nice car can be sued. Because asset forfeiture actions are
civil, a preponderance of the evidence standard applies.
Hearsay evidence may be admitted.
Forfeiture of illegal drugs and weapons is based on the
contraband nature of the property. Property that can be traced
to an illegal drug transaction is a proceed. Proceeds are
forfeited on the basis that they are profits of illegal activi-
ties. Property that is used to facilitate illegal activities is
also subject to forfeiture. Asset forfeiture may occur in ei-
ther state or federal court. If state or local officers investi-
gate the case and the charges are brought in state court,
and there is property subject to forfeiture, then a state court
forfeiture action is appropriate.
Additional questions must be asked when investigating
a crime involving property potentially subject to forfeiture.
Ask questions that connect the property to facilitation of the
crime and profit from the crime. Consult with the govern-
ment attorney assigned to prosecute civil forfeitures early
in the investigation. Civil forfeiture lawsuits must often be
filed within a short time after seizure of the property to be
Seizure of a large amount of cash requires particular
investigative efforts to connect the cash with facilitation of
an illegal transaction or proceeds from an illegal transac-
tion. Following are some suggested questions to ask at the

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