Federal Asset Forfeiture

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Jason B. Freeman

Jason B. Freeman

Managing Member

214.984.3410
jason@freemanlaw.com

Mr. Freeman is the founding member of Freeman Law, PLLC. He is a dual-credentialed attorney-CPA, author, law professor, and trial attorney.

Mr. Freeman has been named by Chambers & Partners as among the leading tax and litigation attorneys in the United States and to U.S. News and World Report’s Best Lawyers in America list. He is a former recipient of the American Bar Association’s “On the Rise – Top 40 Young Lawyers” in America award. Mr. Freeman was named the “Leading Tax Controversy Litigation Attorney of the Year” for the State of Texas for 2019 and 2020 by AI.

Mr. Freeman has been recognized multiple times by D Magazine , a D Magazine Partner service, as one of the Best Lawyers in Dallas, and as a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters service. He has previously been recognized by Super Lawyers as a Top 100 Up-And-Coming Attorney in Texas.

Mr. Freeman currently serves as the chairman of the Texas Society of CPAs (TXCPA). He is a former chairman of the Dallas Society of CPAs (TXCPA-Dallas). Mr. Freeman also served multiple terms as the President of the North Texas chapter of the American Academy of Attorney-CPAs. He has been previously recognized as the Young CPA of the Year in the State of Texas (an award given to only one CPA in the state of Texas under 40).

In the past decade, government forfeitures through the Department of Justice’s Asset Forfeiture Program have ballooned to over $28 billion.  The DOJ, which has authority to seize property associated with violations of federal law through a process known as asset forfeiture, views forfeiture as an important law enforcement tool.  However, particularly because law enforcement officers generally have the authority to seize and forfeit assets without independent judicial oversight (or even charging the owner or possessor of the item with a crime), its increased use raises serious concerns about protecting civil liberties and the potential for erosion of public confidence in law enforcement.  Indeed, it raises fundamental questions about fairness and due process—principles that are at the core of the American system of justice.

To that point, a recent report from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General identified several “specific weaknesses” in the DOJ’s oversight of asset seizure and forfeiture activities.  As part of its most recent study, the OIG reviewed a sample of DEA cash seizures, selected based on the presence of characteristics that made them particularly susceptible to civil liberties concerns—for example, seizures that appeared to have occurred without a court-issued warrant.

Among the shortcomings noted in the report, the OIG “found that the [DOJ] neither formally collects nor evaluates the data necessary to determine whether its seizures and forfeitures advance or relate to federal investigations.”  As a result, the study found, “the DOJ and its investigative components cannot fully evaluate and oversee their seizure and forfeiture activities to ensure that they are used to advance investigations . . . and that they do not present a potential risk to civil liberties.”  Thus, the report emphasized, DOJ should assess “(1) whether [particular] . . . seizures benefit law enforcement efforts and (2) the extent to which [such] . . . seizures present potential risks to civil liberties.”

Drawing on its analysis of the sampled seizures and extrapolating out from its results, the OIG presented four specific recommendations, encouraging the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section to work with various agencies and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices to take the following steps to address these concerns:

  1. Develop ways to collect relevant data related to seizure and forfeiture activities sufficient to identify and evaluate whether seizures advance or are related to federal investigations.
  2. Review seizure practices to determine whether more-specific policy guidance and/or training is needed to ensure consistency in seizure operations.
  3. Ensure that state and local task force officers receive training on federal asset seizure and forfeiture laws and component seizure policies before they conduct or participate in federal seizures.
  4. Monitor the effects of the Attorney General’s 2015 Order that eliminated most types of federal adoptions of state and local seizures, and seek to mitigate any negative effects on law enforcement cooperation.

This most recent OIG report is the latest in a series of reviews and investigations related to federal seizure and forfeiture activities.  The topic is a particularly important one given the role that forfeiture plays in law enforcement (both at the federal and state level).

Stay tuned for future posts that will delve into the history of forfeiture in our country and the procedural aspects that govern its use (and potential misuse).

Representation in Tax Audits & Appeals

Need assistance in managing the audit process? Freeman Law’s team of attorneys and dual-credentialed attorney-CPAs regularly represents taxpayers before the IRS and Texas Comptroller. Our team also provides tax return-related representations and helps taxpayers navigate state tax laws. Our Firm offers value-driven services and provides practical solutions to complex issues. Schedule a consultation or call (214) 984-3410 to discuss our tax representation services.

 

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