Articles Posted in Civil Forfeitures

August 9, 2017

Civil Asset Forfeiture Defenses and ways to fight back

By Brian Manchester

Civil Asset Forfeiture is one of the major ways in which Pennsylvania use the police to legally take possession of your cars, cash, jewelry, or even houses. You are likely reading this because your cash or property was taken by the police in Pennsylvania. You are also saying to yourself you have done nothing wrong. Well that probably is true but if your cash or property has been seized that means the government says you have done something wrong. Even if you have not been charged. The government likes to say you have done something wrong so they can use the law to intimidate you using the law and their resources to keep your property. That is wrong and that is why my law firm fights civil asset forfeitures using the full force of the law. Read below and you will see how specific legal defenses can give you a fighting chance to have your seized property returned to you.

The Federal Government through Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reversed policies put into place to protect people who have not been charged with any crimes yet had property taken from them. This change in policy will allow local police in Pennsylvania and across the US to circumvent around state laws by including the Federal Government into the seizures, thus using the Federal guidelines for the seizure. Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated that “no criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime” the problem with this is that a lot of the time there is no criminal charges brought by the police; just a seizure of cash, a car, or house. You have to be able to fight back. Below I go over a few of the specific legal defenses that can be raised when fighting back against these forfeitures.

Specific Legal Defenses.

Innocent Owner Defense. This is a Defense for when Conveyances and/or Real Property is seized. This Defense is only available once per item. Thus if they Commonwealth seized the property again in the future you cannot again make the same claim of an innocent owner. The defense is for the actual owner of the property who has no knowledge and has not consented to the drug related activities that were occurring with the use of the property. This lack of knowledge must be reasonable under the circumstances presented in the case. This Defense is very useful when a parent is the owner of a vehicle that one of their children are uses for college. Then the child gets into some trouble and the car is seized. Most of the time the parents are not aware of their children committing criminal offenses.

Small Amount Defense. No conveyance can be forfeited for a violation of a small amount of marijuana. The police may seize the vehicle but they are not allowed to receive a forfeiture for the vehicle if they only crime that occurred was for a small amount of marijuana.

Constitutional 8th Amendment Defense. This defense is based on the comparison of the alleged crime that occurred and the value of the property taken. Forfeitures are considered fines, fines are considered to be punishments, thus Forfeitures are punishments. The 8th Amendment of the US Constitution and Article 1 section 13 of the PA constitution prohibit cruel and unusual punishment such as excessive fines. The PA Supreme Court has stated that first the court must assess whether the property sought to be forfeited is an instrumentality of the underlying offense. If the property is not found to be an instrumentality of the criminal conduct, the inquiry is dispositive and ends, and the forfeiture is unconstitutional. Secondly whether the value of the property sought to be forfeited is grossly disproportional to the gravity of the underlying offense. If it is grossly disproportional, the forfeiture is unconstitutional.

If you, your son, daughter, loved one in Pennsylvania has had their property or cash seized on the highways or roads in Pennsylvania or has been arrested for a crime in state or federal court in Pennsylvania you need legal representation Here at Manchester and Associates we represent people across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for cash and property seizures often. We have taken these cases to trial and won as well as successfully settled them all across Pennsylvania. If your cash or property was seized in Pennsylvania, you have a limited time to claim your property or cash seized due to time limits set forth in the law so call us immediately. For a free consultation we can be contacted at 1-800-243-4878.

Posted in: Civil Forfeitures ,

July 17, 2017

Recently Obtained Civil Forfeiture Results Across Pennsylvania

By Brian Manchester

Civil Asset Forfeiture is one of the major ways in which Pennsylvania use the police to legally take possession of your property. The State has the power to seize your conveyances (usually vehicles), cash, real property, and other items of value (jewelry/watches), under the drug forfeiture statute. The police are on the look out to get these items seized then forfeited to the state, because they (the police) get to then use the funds. We have had cases from Interstate 80, Interstate 99, Interstate 81, Interstate 76 also known as the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Pennsylvania Route 322, Pennsylvania Route 11, and Pennsylvania Route 15. You are likely reading this because your cash or property was taken by the police in Pennsylvania. You are also saying to yourself you have done nothing wrong. Well that probably is true but if your cash or property has been seized that means the government says you have done something wrong. Even if you have not been charged. The government likes to say you have done something wrong so they can use the law to intimidate you using the law and their resources to keep your property. That is wrong and that is why my law firm fights civil asset forfeitures using the law and science. Below are a few of the results that we have been able to obtain for our clients using both legal and scientific defenses for our clients.

Forfeiture Results

Most forfeiture cases result is some type of settlement agreement, just like in criminal cases. However not all cases resolve in this manner. We like to get our cases listed for trial because it forces the Attorney General office to make a decision.

Interstate 81

I represented an individual stopped on I-81 in Carbon County Pennsylvania. This case was a lot like the one above, however the amount of money was less, but it was my client’s entire life savings, to which he was transporting between banks. The Attorney General was not willing to negotiate at all. So we had a trial. Through having a trial, two of the Commonwealths witnesses failed to appear. Thus he would only use the Trooper who pulled my client over. I was successful in keeping out the Dog Hit and Ion Scan, (see my blog on these defenses). The Judge ruled that the Commonwealth failed to prove a nexus between the funds seized and drug activity. The entire amount seized was returned for my client.

Interstate 80

We represented an individual who was stopped on I-80 in Jefferson County Pennsylvania and had his vehicle searched because the officers claimed that they could smell marijuana. The only thing the officer found was a bag of cash, to which the officer immediately seized. Now I need to let to know that this was a vehicle full of guys heading through Pennsylvania to get to New Jersey to gamble at Atlantic City. Obviously this ruined their trip as they no longer had any funds available to gamble with. This case ended in a settlement where we were able to secure most of the cash back to our client without the need for him to travel back to Pennsylvania for a trial.

Interstate 80, Interstate 99, Pennsylvania Route 322

We have represented multiple people that have been stopped on roads in Centre County, I-80, I-99, Pennsylvania Route 322. Recently I had two cases that settled. In one case the client agreed to settle the case for a 50/50 split as the client did not want to travel back from New York for the trial, and in this particular case drugs and drug paraphernalia were present. In another case that was settled we were able to recover almost 90% of the funds taken. The case was scheduled for trial with very good defenses. However the client lived in Ohio and would have lost several days of work if he would have had to travel in for the trial. We knew what a trial would cost my client so that is what we offered the Attorney General. They accepted, rather than take the case to trial.

If you, your son, daughter, loved one in Pennsylvania has had their property or cash seized on the highways or roads in Pennsylvania or has been arrested for a crime in state or federal court in Pennsylvania you need legal representation. Here at Manchester and Associates, we represent people across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for cash and property seizures often. We have taken these cases to trial and won as well as successfully settled them all across Pennsylvania. If your cash or property was seized in Pennsylvania, you have a limited time to claim your property or cash seized due to time limits set forth in the law so call us immediately. For a free consultation we can be contacted at 1-800-243-4878.

Posted in: Civil Forfeitures ,

June 30, 2017

Defenses To Property And Cash Seizures In Pennsylvania

By Brian Manchester

Civil Asset Forfeiture is one of the major ways in which Pennsylvania use the police to legally take possession of your cars, cash, jewelry, or even houses. You are likely reading this because your cash or property was taken by the police in Pennsylvania. You are also saying to yourself you have done nothing wrong. Well that probably is true but if your cash or property has been seized that means the government says you have done something wrong. Even if you have not been charged. The government likes to say you have done something wrong so they can use the law to intimidate you using the law and their resources to keep your property. That is wrong and that is why my law firm fights civil asset forfeitures using the law and science. You may ask yourself what does science have to do with the government seizing my cash or property? Read below and you will see how it is involved in your seized property, especially cash seized in Pennsylvania.

General Defenses.

The famous Dog Hit. Police love to bring in a K-9 unit to show a connection between the money they took from you while driving on Pennsylvania roads. The PA Supreme Court has addressed this exact issue as to the reliability of the K-9 hit and whether that hit is actually related to drug activity. The fact that a drug-sniffing dog alerted on cash is not dispositive of whether money was subject to forfeiture. MONEY IS DIRTY, innocent people have currency that was probably involved in a prior drug transaction, and residual presence of drugs on some part of that currency established only possibility or suspicion of a connection between the money and some type of drug activity. A Dog hit on the items seized by the police is not enough to show that you were involved in illegal activities only that the current cash or item that you had was possibly at one time around drugs. You attack this drug dog hit by getting the training records of the dog and using scientific studies to debunk this bark equals illegal activity nonsense.

The Voodoo they call the ION Scan. The government thinks that if they cannot get a slam dunk with a drug dog, then they turn to a more “scientific” (laugh laugh) test through what is called an ion scanner. This test is nothing more than a mechanical dog. The Courts have stated that proving the presence of cocaine on cash, by itself, is insufficient to show a nexus between that cash and illegal drug trafficking. An ion scan must show that amount of controlled substance found on the money, and it must be done in a way that eliminates the possibility that only a small number of bills are responsible for the ion scan reading. If it does not, the ion scan is no more probative than a drug dog alert. In addition the Court states that the Commonwealth must show that the amount found is above the casual contact level for Pennsylvania or where ever the Commonwealth claims that the funds originated from. Because cash is dirty. What they do is put money on a table and wave a wand (I call it a Magic Wand) over a table covered in money. God help a person who has a bill or 2 that was used to consume drugs. This is junk science and it can be beaten.

The Evil Bundles of Cash. When cash is seized in Pennsylvania the government always make a big deal out of the way a Defendant happened to be carrying large sums of money with them. The Commonwealth Court has stated, it is not against the law to carry cash, and a citizen has no obligation to speak to the police. The Commonwealth bears the burden of proving that seized cash is more likely than not related to illegal drug activity.

The Trafficking Corridor. This is one of my favorite government terms. If you are on a major highway in Pennsylvania like Interstate 80, Interstate 99, and especially the Pennsylvania Turnpike and you happen to have a large amount of cash on you are no longer driving on a Pennsylvania highway and had your cash seized, you have now travelled on a known “Trafficking Corridor” Well it is a trafficking corridor when they want to take your money. To my law firm it is a highway where the government took you cash that we will be fighting to get back for you.

If you, your son, daughter, loved one in Pennsylvania has had their property or cash seized on the highways or roads in Pennsylvania or has been arrested for a crime in state or federal court in Pennsylvania you need legal representation. Here at Manchester and Associates we represent people across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for cash and property seizures often. We have taken these cases to trial and won as well as successfully settled them all across Pennsylvania. If your cash or property was seized in Pennsylvania, you have a limited time to claim your property or cash seized due to time limits set forth in the law so call us immediately. For a free consultation we can be contacted at 1-800-243-4878.

Posted in: Civil Forfeitures ,

June 30, 2017

Civil Forfeiture In Pennsylvania

By Brian Manchester

Here is a typical situation. You are driving down a highway in Pennsylvania and a State Trooper pulls you over. He asks you for your license and registration and insurance. Then he starts asking you questions that have nothing to do with the reason he pulls you over. Of course since you did nothing wrong you start answering them. Then he asks you if you have any drugs or illegal items in the car. Of course you say no. Then he asks you if you have money or a large amount of currency in the car. Being an honest person you say yes and tell him you have $10,000.00 and you are on your way to buy a car. That is when things go south really quick. You are then asked to step out of the car and after a series of more questions your money is taken. It is not illegal to carry cash but in today’s society cash is king to the police. They just love to seize it and then once seized use it to fund their training and all sorts of other police related, and often not so police related, purchases. Welcome to the hell the government calls civil asset forfeiture. This is the government’s “legal” way to take your property and money and then make you go to court to fight to get it back. The fight is not an easy one nor is it cheap. Unfortunately when the government takes you cash or property in Pennsylvania you have no right to hire a lawyer to get it back. You have to hire a lawyer in Pennsylvania or do it yourself Civil Asset Forfeiture is one of the major ways in which Pennsylvania use the police to legally take possession of your cars, cash, jewelry, or even houses.

Most of the time citizens of Pennsylvania only interact with the police when they get pulled over for a traffic offense. This has become the most popular way in which police in Pennsylvania use to seize your possessions, your vehicle, and especially your cash. Even if you have no drugs in your car or are doing anything illegal. If you have a large amount of cash and they don’t like your answers or they don’t believe you earned that money they will seize it. The major highways in Pennsylvania that cash and property is getting seized are Interstate 80, Interstate 99, and Route 322. Interstate 11-15, and The Pennsylvania Turnpike.

In Pennsylvania you do not even have to be charged with a crime for the police to seize your property. Once the property is seized then they attempt to foreclose on the property to terminate your rights to the property. Even if all you have is a small amount of marijuana the police will definitely seize your cash and claim it under the Drug Forfeiture Act.

The Police are always looking out for large sums of cash. They go to classes on how to find it and how to get people to tell them they are carrying cash. There is even a special State Police task force called S.H.I.E.L.D. These Troopers are notorious cash grabber.

Once the seizure has taken place and the police now possess the property or cash it is on you as the true owner of the property to fight back through Civil law to get your property back. You are not granted the rights and protections under the Constitutions like you would be if this were a Criminal case. As I said above, that means you are not guaranteed an attorney to fight your civil forfeiture or cash seizure. The burden can and often time does switch from the Commonwealth to you to prove that the property or cash taken by the police is legal and has nothing to do with drugs. It is in your best interest to contact an experienced Attorney in this area, because there are very strict deadlines involved and if a deadline is missed you may have lost all opportunities to try to fight to get your property back.

If you, your son, daughter, loved one in Pennsylvania has had their property or cash seized on the highways or roads in Pennsylvania or has already been arrested for a crime in state or federal court in Pennsylvania you need legal representation. Here at Manchester and Associates we represent people across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for cash and property seizures often. We have taken these cases to trial and won as well as successfully settled them all across Pennsylvania. If your cash or property was seized in Pennsylvania you have a limited time to claim your property or cash seized due to time limits set forth in the law so call us immediately. For a free consultation we can be contacted at 1-800-243-4878.

Posted in: Civil Forfeitures ,