Forfeiture of Property in Washington State Marijuana Grow Cases

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Aug 21

Lewis & Laws

Forfeiture of Property in Washington State Marijuana Grow Cases

by Lewis & Laws

Forfeiture of Property in Washington State Marijuana Grow Cases

Although recreational marijuana is legal in the state of Washington, the only parties who can legally grow the drug are those with appropriate licenses and certified medical users. Recreational marijuana users are not allowed to grow their own. If they do—and are caught—they could face drug crime charges, including drug possession, possession with intent to distribute, distribution, and manufacturing. In addition to being criminally charged, the person growing the marijuana may find their property seized.

What is Forfeiture?

Forfeiture occurs when a governmental agency seizes—and keeps—property under criminal or civil laws. The governmental agency must believe the property in question had been used in the commission of a crime or represents the proceeds of a crime. Property which can be forfeited under Washington State laws include:

  • Cash
  • Money in the bank
  • Any “tools” used in the commission of the crime (like a vehicle)
  • Contraband
  • Land and homes used in the commission of the crime

Your Property May Be Seized, Even in Absence of Criminal Charges

As the owner of the property which has been seized, it is extremely important that you speak to a criminal defense attorney in Seattle immediately. Civil forfeiture actions are against the property itself, such as a home where marijuana is being grown. The state must prove by a preponderance of evidence that the property was definitely associated with criminal activity. In other words, it is more likely than not that the property was associated with a crime. If marijuana was being grown inside the house, this may not be all that difficult for the state to prove.

If the state succeeds in convincing the court that the house or property was used for criminal activity, the owner is then allowed to try and recover the property by showing he or she was not involved in the criminal activity being alleged in the case. That being said, governmental entities in the state of Washington are allowed to initiate forfeiture proceeding even when no criminal charges have been filed.

Challenging Your Property Forfeiture with the Help of a Seattle Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are challenging a property forfeiture, the same agency which took your property will decide whether the police will be allowed to keep your property—think about that—the police who take your property are allowed to decide whether they took it properly. Forfeiture victims who want to avoid such injustice need to contact a Seattle criminal defense attorney immediately. Your attorney may be able to get your forfeiture case away from the police and into a court before a judge.

Your attorney may be able to file a Petition to Remove and a Summons and Complaint which identifies the wrongfully forfeited property. You will have to pay a filing fee to the court, have the police served, and, in some cases, the city mayor served as well. Your petition must be filed, and pleadings served within 45 days of challenging the forfeiture. Your Seattle forfeiture lawyer can assist you in protecting and retaining your property in a marijuana grow case.

Washington State may well have some of the worst civil drug forfeiture laws in the country, allowing the government to take property it believes might have been a part of a drug transaction. Once the government seizes your property, the burden of proof is on you to prove your property was legally acquired and that the property is unrelated to any drug crime, in particular, the growing of marijuana.

Getting Help From Seattle Drug Crimes Defense Attorneys at Lewis & Laws, PLLC

If you are charged with a drug crime in Seattle and your property is seized, it is imperative that you contact an experienced Seattle criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible to ensure your rights and your future are protected. Drug charges can be more serious than you may think and could result in a lifetime behind bars.

The experienced lawyers at Lewis & Laws, PLLC have successfully defended clients in Seattle, Bellevue, and Kirkland. Contact us today at 206.209.0608 or fill out our online contact form.

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