When The Government Seizes Your Home

Real Estate LawyerIt’s relatively uncommon to hear of a government-sanctioned home seizure. But that doesn’t mean that things like such don’t happen. Certain circumstances may give the government the right to seize someone’s property. And when this happens, only a real estate lawyer can provide ample defense against it. But why does it happen; and how can one deal with it?

Why It Happens

There are five common instances which prompt the government to seize a private property. For example, a property may be considered condemned; if so, the authorities take control of the land to likely convert it for public use. A “judicial lien” can also happen, wherein a property’s title is taken when a foreclosure resulting in a judicial sale is involved. Tax issues can also prompt a government takeover, as well as civil forfeiture (when the property is involved in a crime), and intentions for private economic development.

Most of the time, however, a property may be seized even if its owners aren’t actually charged with a crime (see civil forfeiture). U.S. law states that all it takes is mere suspicion of a crime, during an instance which agencies like the Department of Justice or even the IRS can step in. The law’s original intent is to justify the seizure of a money launderer/drug dealer’s assets, though its major drawback is its lackadaisical requirement threshold.

Defending Against It

Just this May, Rep. James Sensenbrenner of the state of Wisconsin introduced a bill aiming to protect private property from seizure without ample evidence. It was subsequently approved by the House Judiciary Committee a mere week after its introduction. Known as the Due Process Act, the bill is part of a multifaceted effort which aims to protect both individuals and businesses upon committing unintentional violations of the Criminal Code Improvement Act of 2015.

This legislation is something that stands on universal moral grounds. There’s obviously a need to fully and adequately establish an organization or individual’s guilt in terms of using private property as an accessory to a crime. California state representative Darrell Issa is among its fervent supporters, believing that law enforcement must not make a habit of seizing property without sufficient proof of a criminal offense. It’s also something that unwary accused parties can exploit when matters are taken to court.

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