Nevada Rules for Forfeiture Explained by Nick Wooldridge

In the United States, including in Las Vegas, Nevada, you have the right to be secure in your person and  to be secure in your property. The Constitution protects you from both unlawful searches and unjustified seizures of your personal possessions. These protections, however, do not mean that the state can never take or force you to turn over property.

There are circumstances where you can lose your right to keep money and to keep other valuable items that you own. Laws for forfeiture establish when items can be taken from you, and what the process must be for those items to be taken.  In the state of Nevada, for example, there is a Forfeiture chapter of the Nevada Revised State’s chapter on Special Proceedings of a Criminal Nature.

Understanding laws on forfeiture can be complicated, and the stakes can be very high because you could lose a substantial amount of valuable property or could lose a significant sum of money. If you are at risk of having your possessions or your property taken from you, or if law enforcement has already seized any of your assets, you need to consult with a knowledgeable legal advocate who can fight for your rights. Las Vegas defense attorneys can help you to try to avoid forfeiture and can help you to understand the procedure for getting your funds or property back, if it is possible to do so.

LV Criminal Defense has extensive experience representing clients in forfeiture cases. Give us a call today to discover more about the ways in which our legal team can help you to ensure your rights are respected and your property isn’t taken without a fight.

How Does Forfeiture Work?

The rules for forfeiture within the state of Nevada are set forth in Nevada Revised Statutes sections 179.1156 through 179.121.

These laws set forth the types of property that the state is allowed take and the circumstances under which property may be taken. For example, property subject to forfeiture can include:

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  • Proceeds or property attained due to the commission, or attempted commission of a felony offense. (R.S. 179.1164).  Proceeds are defined in N.R.S. 179.1161 to include all property the ownership of which was either directly or indirectly obtained as a result of the commission or attempted commission of a crime.
  • All personal property, including money, tools, computers, and weapons which are used in the commission or attempted commission of certain crimes including but not limited to murder, kidnapping, robbery, home invasion, gang crimes, or felony theft. (N.R.S. 179.121).

In general, due process is required before any property is seized, even if seizure is permitted under Nevada law. N.R.S. 179.1165 explains that property that is subject to forfeiture under the law should be seized by a law enforcement agency only if ordered by a magistrate who has jurisdiction over the property.

However, N.R.S. 179.1165 sets forth exceptions to this general rule. Under N.R.S. 179.1165, law enforcement officers can seize property without process if the property is seized incident to arrest, or if it is seized as a part of a legally valid search that police were conducting after obtaining a search warrant.

Property can also be seized if it is taken as part of an administrative inspection or inspection conducted pursuant to a warrant; if the property was the subject of a final judgement in a forfeiture proceeding; or if there is probable cause to believe that the property presents either a direct or an indirect risk to safety or health.

Finally, property can also be subject to forfeiture without an order from a magistrate if law enforcement has probable cause to believe that the property they are taking is subject to forfeiture. Unfortunately, this leads to many situations where law enforcement officers will simply determine that there is a reason to take your property. When this happens, you need to talk with Las Vegas criminal lawyer Nicholas Wooldridge about how to fight to get your property rights restored.

What Happens to Forfeited Money and Property?

When property is seized, the agency that has taken the property generally has three options. One option is to put the property under seal. Another option is to take the property to a designated storage space that the agency has established to hold that particular kind of property. A third option is to put the property in an appropriate location for disposition in the manner that a court permits.

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When currency is taken by a law enforcement agency, the rules differ. Unless the court directs otherwise, currency that is seized should be put into an interest-bearing account that has been specifically established in order to keep stored currency.

After the court declares that the property has been officially forfeited, the plaintiff then has options for what should happen to the money or property. After property is declared forfeited, the property can be retained for official use; sold if it isn’t harmful to the public or required to be destroyed; or removed for disposition under applicable Nevada laws.

Rights, title, and all legal interest in the property which is subject to forfeiture will vest in the plaintiff as soon as the property was actually used, or intended for use, in facilitating a crime. If the property being forfeited is subject to forfeiture because it is the proceeds of a crime, title vest in the plaintiff at the time when the property officially becomes proceeds of a crime.

Any transfer of the property after title has vested in the plaintiff is considered to be void unless the person who the transfer was made to buys the property in good faith and the property was purchased for fair market value.  This rule precludes simply transferring the property to someone else so it is no longer subject to being forfeited.

Getting Help from Las Vegas Criminal Lawyers

Las Vegas criminal lawyers understand the rules for forfeiture and can provide you with invaluable assistance fighting to protect your property. LV Criminal Defense has extensive experience representing clients in forfeiture cases and working to help clients get their property rights restored.