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What is asset forfeiture, and do you have to worry about it?

If you're accused of fraud or other white-collar crimes, you need to be quick to defend yourself with your attorney's help before your reputation is stained. One of the things you're going to need to be concerned about is the possibility of asset forfeiture, especially when dealing with white-collar crime accusations. With asset forfeiture, it's not just your reputation put on the line, but everything you've worked for financially, too.

Because, as the Federal Bureau for Investigation states, criminals are often motivated to acquire goods due to greed, the government can force these individuals to forfeit their property if it can be connected to criminal activities. This can be effective, because it reduces the likelihood of people participating in crimes due to fears of having assets restricted or removed from their possessions, however, someone being accused of a crime who hasn't done anything wrong has everything to lose. On top of this, while an investigation is pending, it's possible that assets could be frozen, making it hard for the accused to live comfortably until the case goes to court or is dismissed.

The idea behind taking assets is also that victims will receive back the items that have been stolen and be compensated. The problem is that if a person makes a false claim, it's possible that the accused may lose one's assets to someone who has made a fraudulent claim against him or her. Fortunately, the FBI and other agencies must prove that the assets are linked to criminal activity; if you can make sure it isn't or can prove you didn't participate in a crime, then it's much less likely for you to lose the assets in question.

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Asset Forfeiture," accessed Jan. 21, 2016

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