Shreveport-Bossier Asset Forfeiture Attorney


Asset Forfeiture Defense

Did a law enforcement agency recently seize your private property through civil forfeiture in the greater Shreveport-Bossier City area? Attorney Ebonee Norris has the experience necessary to represent you and help you protect what is rightfully yours.

Don’t let the government take what you’ve worked so hard to obtain for yourself and your family. We’ll use our skill and knowledge of Louisiana law to fight for you.

In 2016, the Institute for Justice (IJ), a libertarian public interest law firm registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, released its second version of “Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture,” in which it provided a map of the United States that included a scorecard for every state. Louisiana was one of 35 states with a grade of D+or worse. According to IJ, Louisiana generated $99,315,778 in total forfeiture proceeds between 2000 and 2014, with $87,756,581 being currency and $11,559,196 being property.

Civil forfeiture is a process that allows law enforcement officers or agencies to confiscate and keep private property allegedly related to a crime, even if the property owner is not actually charged with a criminal case. Worse yet, the government is not required to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt (the highest legal standard) as it must in other criminal cases, instead only being required to prove probable cause by a preponderance of the evidence (a far lower standard effectively translating to more likely to be true than not true).

The Norris Law Group understands the complexity of civil asset forfeiture cases and can work to help you achieve the most favorable possible outcome in your case. We can review your case during a confidential consultation, as soon as you call (318) 771-7000 or contact us online.

Louisiana Asset Forfeiture Laws

In a civil asset forfeiture, your property is actually the defendant. An action in rem (also known as an in rem proceeding) is a proceeding against the thing as compared to personal actions, which are in personam.

Under Louisiana Revised Statute 40: 2612, an action in rem can be brought by the district attorney in addition to, or in lieu of, civil in personam forfeiture procedures.

The owner of or an interest holder in the property are the only parties allowed to file answers asserting claims against the property in an action in rem. Owners or interest holders become claimants.

An answer must be signed by the owner or interest holder under penalty of perjury and must contain all of the following:

  • The caption of the proceedings as set forth on the Notice of Pending Forfeiture or petition and the name of the claimant.
  • The claimant’s mailing address.
  • The nature and extent of the claimant’s interest in the property.
  • The date, identity of the person transferring the property, and the circumstances of how the claimant acquired the property.
  • The specific provision of Louisiana Revised Statute 40:2612 relied on in asserting that it is not subject to forfeiture.
  • All essential facts supporting each assertion.
  • The precise relief sought.

An answer must be filed within 15 days of service of a civil in rem petition, and the state and any claimant who has answered a petition can, at the time of filing pleadings or at any other time not less than 30 days prior to a hearing, serve discovery requests on another party for which answers or response will be due within 15 days of service.

Louisiana Revised Statute 40:2612(G) provides that the court alone determines the issue and a hearing on a claim must be held within 60 days of service of the petition, unless continued for good cause.

In a forfeiture case where no claim is filed, the burden of proof is probable cause. The burden of proof required to forfeit the defendant’s property is a preponderance of the evidence when a claim is timely filed. When the district attorney fails to show the existence of probable cause for forfeiture or a claimant establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that the claimant has an interest that is exempt under the provisions of Louisiana Revised Statute § 2605, the court will order the property returned to the claimant.

The specific exemptions provided under Louisiana Revised Statute 40:2605 include the property being exempt when an owner or holder establishes all of the following:

  • They are not legally accountable for the alleged conduct giving rise to the forfeiture, did not consent to it, and did not know and could not reasonably have known of the alleged conduct or that it was likely to occur.
  • They had not acquired and did not stand to financially gain from the alleged conduct giving rise to the forfeiture other than as an interest holder in a bona fide commercial transaction.
  • With respect to conveyances for transportation only, they did not hold the property jointly, in common, or in community with a person whose alleged conduct gave rise to its forfeiture.
  • That they do not hold the property for the benefit of or as an agent for any person whose alleged conduct gave rise to its forfeiture, and, if the owner or interest holder acquired his interest through any such person, the owner or interest holder acquired it as a bona fide purchaser for value not knowingly taking part in an illegal transaction.
  • That no person whose alleged conduct gave rise to its forfeiture had the authority to convey the interest to a bona fide purchaser for value at the time of the conduct.

Louisiana Revised Statute 40:2605 also requires a person to establish that the owner or interest holder acquired the interest after the completion of the alleged conduct giving rise to its forfeiture and that the owner or interest holder acquired the interest:

  • as a bona fide purchaser for value who was not knowingly taking part in an illegal transaction,
  • before the filing of a forfeiture lien on it and before the effective date of a Notice of Pending Forfeiture relating to it, and without notice of its seizure for forfeiture under the Chapter, and
  • at the time the interest was acquired, there was no reasonable cause to believe that the property was subject to forfeiture or likely to become subject to forfeiture.

What Happens When Property is Forfeited?

Louisiana Revised Statute 40:2616 is the state law establishing how forfeited property must be allocated. Under Louisiana Revised Statute § 2616.A.(1), the district attorney must authorize a public sale or a public auction sale conducted by a licensed auctioneer, without an appraisal, of forfeited property not required by law to be destroyed and not harmful to the public.

Louisiana Revised Statute 40:2616.A.(2) establishes that when the property seized is a motor vehicle, the seizing agency can retain use of the motor vehicle for use in the course and scope of undercover surveillance and investigation of violations of the Louisiana Controlled Dangerous Substances Law.

The proceeds of any sale and any monies forfeited or obtained by judgment or settlement must be deposited in the Special Asset Forfeiture Fund. Louisiana Revised Statute 40:2616.B. provides that the fund is subject to public audit, and money in the fund must be distributed for satisfaction of any bona fide security interest or lien, then for payment of all expenses of the forfeiture and sale proceedings, with the remaining funds being allocated such that 60 percent goes to the law enforcement agency or agencies making the seizure, 20 percent to the criminal court fund, and 20 percent to any district attorney’s office that employs the attorneys that handle the forfeiture action for the state.

In other words, law enforcement agencies end up keeping a significant portion of whatever currency or property they seize through civil asset forfeiture.

Defending Against Asset Forfeiture

Civil asset forfeiture laws are why we end up with cases that have names like United States v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins, (520 F.3d 976). You will need a knowledgeable lawyer to help you protect and preserve your right to retain your property.

Cases are frequently complicated by the nature of the alleged crime giving rise to the forfeiture. Family violence cases, for example, can result in the victim of domestic violence actually having their property seized because it was in connection to the crime they were a victim of.

If your property was recently seized under state civil asset forfeiture laws in Shreveport, Bossier City, or another nearby community, you will need to work with an attorney who can prove that the forfeiture was not justified. The Norris Law Group will work tirelessly to help you recover the property that was wrongly taken from you.

Ebonee Rhodes Norris is a member of the National Bar Association, Louisiana State Bar Association, Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and Shreveport Bar Association, Louisiana State Bar Association, Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Call (318) 771-7000 or contact us online to have her discuss your case with you during a confidential consultation.

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Client Testimonials

Devin

Jun 12, 2019

Id recommend her to anyone.she was very open about everything, kept it touch and fought hard for me as a client. Thank you much!

J

Jun 06, 2019

Honestly where do I start with Mrs. Norris. She is such an amazing attorney!! I would recommend her to anyone that needs any succession advice or help! She also specializes in other great areas! She handled our case in a great manner. Answered all our questions. Laid down everything that was done and needed to be done. Mrs. Norris went above and beyond our expectations. She is definitely a GO GETTER! What she says she is going to do SHE DOES IT! She is straight to the point and she looks out for her clients! I love Mrs. Norris so much and her work is phenomenal. She’s a phenomenal person and she shows that she cares. CALL Ebonee Norris today and get your case started!!!

Slayducation

May 07, 2019

This Law Firm has tremendously helped me with the proper steps of taking legal action against the other party. Ebonee Norris who is very knowledgeable, was extremely helpful and may I add very professional. Thank You for being who you are. -Shalatashia

JasmineSudds

May 05, 2019

I would definitely recommend Mrs. Norris to any person or business for any legal matter! She was very helpful and attentive to the needs of my corporation and everything was handled very professionally.

Carol

May 03, 2019

Ms. Norris was a pleasure to deal with. We had lots of questions which she took the time to make sure we understood before signing the paperwork we needed. She's very professional and her appointment scheduling system makes it very easy to get what you need done in a timely manner. I would definitely use her again!

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