How can I retain a lawyer if my assets are seized?
The Government Will Not Want a Defendant to Use Seized Assets to Hire a Top Criminal Defense Lawyer for Obvious Reasons. A Recent Ruling by SCOTUS Makes it Clear that the Constitution Favors a Defendant’s Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel.
Many people charged with criminal offenses in state and federal court have been unable to hire the attorney of their choosing because their assets and bank accounts are frozen or seized by the government. As you may imagine, prosecutors are reluctant to free up assets so a defendant can hire a great lawyer to defend them in the case. This is an apparent conflict of interest given that it is the government’s goal to obtain a conviction and forfeit the assets.
Recently the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion that will help those accused of criminal offenses exercise their constitutional right to hire counsel of their choosing. The Sixth Amendment has also been held to protect absolutely the right of a defendant to retain counsel of his choice and to be represented in the fullest measure by the person of his choice. The case was Luis v. U.S., 14-419 (2016).
The court ruled that the United States Attorney undermined the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to retain counsel by not permitting the defendant access to the seized funds to hire a lawyer.
The Government argued that there are important interests on the other side of the legal equation that outweighed the defendant’s right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment. The government cited the importance of having funds available later to help pay for statutory penalties and restitution, for example.
Essentially the Court ruled that funds that cannot be shown to be tainted (the produce of illegal activity), must be made available to the defendant to hire counsel. In the ruling, the court stated:
“These defendants, often rendered indigent [by the seizure of assets], would fall back upon publicly paid counsel, including overworked and underpaid public defenders. The upshot is a substantial risk that accepting the Government’s views would render less effective the basic right the Sixth Amendment seeks to protect.”
Typically, lawfully acquired assets can be seized and held to cover statutory penalties and restitution. From this point forward, if funds are held that are not the product of illegal activity, the defendant must be given access to the assets for the purpose of hiring a criminal defense lawyer.
Using Seized Assets to Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have questions about whether money or other assets seized by the government can be used by you to hire a lawyer, call us for a free consultation at (248) 263-6800 or complete a Request for Assistance Form and an experienced criminal defense attorney will promptly contact you.