How can I retain a lawyer if the government seized my assets?
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 Clarifies that the Constitution Favors a Defendant’s Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel.
The Government Will Seize Assets to Pressure the Target of An Investigation
Many people charged with criminal offenses in state and federal courts have been unable to hire an 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. An individual with seized assets might ask, “how do I retain a lawyer if my assets have been seized?” Getting money back from the government to secure retained counsel is possible, and top lawyers know how to make it happen.
The U.S. Supreme Court Supports a Defendant’s Right to Retained Counsel
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 protects a defendant’s right to be represented in the fullest measure by the retained attorney of their choice. The case was Luis v. U.S., 14-419 (2016).
Sixth Amendment Right to Retain Counsel Trumps Forfeiture Laws
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 important interests on the other side of the legal equation 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.
Essentially the Court ruled that unless there is proof that the funds are tainted (the produce of illegal activity), they must be made available to the defendant to hire counsel. In the ruling, the judge 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.”
A Defendant Must Have Access to Seized Assets to Retain a Lawyer
Lawfully acquired assets can be seized and held to cover statutory penalties and restitution. From this point forward, if seized funds are not the product of the illegal activity, the defendant must be given access to the assets to hire a criminal defense lawyer.
Using Seized Assets to Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have questions about using money or other assets seized by the government to hire a lawyer, call LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. for a free consultation. We will take the time to talk with you, answer your questions, and address your concerns. We will find a way to help you with the forfeiture and defend you on any criminal charges.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete a Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.