The civil forfeiture of property has become a popular tool for state and federal agencies to fight alleged criminal activity. It is a civil proceeding that permits the government to seize personal property if it is believed that the property is “proceeds of criminal activity.” The civil forfeiture law allows government authorities, usually police authorities, to gain possession of a person’s property without any determination of guilt or innocence of the person involved.
What Actions Cause Property to be Seized?
Typically, a forfeiture action begins when personal property is seized after an arrest. During the raid government agents can take everything that could help build a criminal prosecution. This can include paper records, computer equipment, money, cell phones and cars.
We are seeing more cases where both local and federal law enforcement authorities are using the civil forfeiture laws to seize property in cases where there are allegations of Medicare fraud, Medicaid fraud, “pill mill” operations, pharmacies filling an excess number of pain management prescriptions (charged as “drug trafficking” by law enforcement), and physicians and clinics writing an excess number of pain management prescriptions (also charged as “drug trafficking” by law enforcement).
Actions to Take If Your Property is Seized.
If you are the subject of a seizure, always ask for an inventory of the items taken, obtain a receipt, and obtain the contact information of each agent or police official involved. Act to preserve any property that is not seized.
Next, contact an attorney experienced in defending against such seizures right away. You have a number of rights and opportunities to get your property back. However, there is a very short time period to request a preliminary hearing on the matter.
Act Quickly to Regain Your Property.
We believe the government’s use of civil forfeitures is to shut down the alleged criminal and make it so the victim cannot hire an attorney. However, there are defenses and often the government exceeds the bounds of propriety. The key to success in civil forfeiture actions is to immediately consult with an experienced attorney after the property has been seized. Your best defense is to act quickly.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Civil Forfeiture Cases.
The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, mental health counselors and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, civil forfeitures, inspections and audits involving the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
What do you think of the Civil Forfeiture Act being used against health care professionals and health facilities? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
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