Drug Charges and Civil Forfeiture Actions

Forfeiture actions have become more and more common in many types of criminal cases, especially in drug cases and white collar crime cases. Plus, Texas forfeiture laws have expanded in recent years to be potentially applicable in any felony of the first or second degree under Texas law. Since local law enforcement agencies often are able to keep a large portion of any assets that they seize, including cash and vehicles, they have an incentive to seize assets at crime scenes and pursue civil forfeiture in as many cases as possible.

In many cases, Texas courts will uphold the civil forfeiture of assets related to a crime, as the state only has to prove that the property is more likely than not subject to forfeiture, or the preponderance of the evidence standard, which is rather low. Courts often base their decisions in civil forfeiture cases on a number of factors, including the value of the assets involved, evidence of suspicious activity or drug trafficking, the proximity of the assets to the drugs, and testimony that supports substantial connection between the drug trafficking and the seized assets.

Despite the low burden of proof for the state, there are defenses to civil forfeiture actions related to criminal drug charges. The state is required to initiate a civil forfeiture action within 30 days of the date on which law enforcement officials seized the assets. If they fail to do so, then they are barred from retaining the assets. There also is an innocent owner defense that can be raised when the property at issues belongs to another person who has not been charged with criminal activity.

The Cogdell Law Firm is a full service criminal litigation and appellate law firm. We provide client-focused representation at all stages of the process, whether our clients are facing drug charges, a civil forfeiture action, or both When results matter most, contact Texas civil forfeiture attorney Dan Cogdell at (713) 426-2244 or dan@cogdell-law.com.