Civil Asset Forfeiture Lawyer in Dayton, OH 

Civil asset forfeitures happen when prosecutors present “clear and convincing” evidence that seized property is the proceeds of a crime or was used to facilitate a crime. Under Ohio statutes, law enforcement officers or federal agents have the right to seize your property if they suspect such a connection with criminal activity. Losing that property to the state forever does not require a charge or conviction.

Brian Joslyn’s abilities as a lawyer have garnered national recognition and awards. He was given the prestigious “Rising Star” designation by SuperLawyers, was named a “Top 100 Trial Lawyers” by National Trial Lawyers, and received the Martindale-Hubbell Preeminent Attorney Award, reserved for lawyers who demonstrate the highest level of professional excellence. Locally, Brian was named a “Top Lawyer” by Columbus CEO Magazine. 

Joslyn Law Firm has represented more than 20,000 criminal cases in Ohio. We know the tactics that prosecutors will attempt in your case, and we will put our deep familiarity with the courts, prosecutors, and court staff to use in fighting this forfeiture.

Highly Rated Dayton Attorneys for Civil Asset Forfeiture

Because of changes in Ohio’s forfeiture laws, the burden of proof in a civil asset forfeiture case falls squarely on the prosecution’s shoulders. Still, you will need to file responsive pleadings that challenge the forfeiture petition. The state requires you to include a verified claim and answer—and to do it all by strictly enforced deadlines.

Civil asset forfeiture lawyers from Joslyn Law Firm provide legal counsel to the people of Dayton, OH, who face forfeiture of their property. When you hire us to represent your claim, you can rest assured that your case is being handled by award-winning lawyers with experience handling criminal law cases. 

Forfeiture laws are subject to tremendous abuse that makes it hard for property owners to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. If the prosecutor’s office has notified you that it is initiating a civil action to obtain forfeiture of your seized property, you will need to fight hard and smart—or consider having someone fight on your behalf. The court will not appoint you a public defender for a civil asset forfeiture case. 

Our Knowledge Base Drives the Outcome of Your Case 

National and local media (including NBC4, ABC6, 10WBNS, FOX23, The Columbus Dispatch, and The Plain Dealer) count on Brian’s expertise in criminal law when they are writing or producing stories in this area. Our clients also benefit from the invaluable experience of other members of the Joslyn Law Firm legal team.

Associate Attorney Ryan Shafer worked for five years in the Franklin County Public Defender’s Office, and Associate Attorney Mark Wieczorek offers his insights from having worked as a Hamilton County, Ohio, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney.

Call Us Today for a Free Evaluation 

Our legal team and staff stand ready to represent you in you your civil asset forfeiture case in Dayton, OH. Call us today for a free evaluation: (937) 356-3969. 

Civil Asset Forfeitures in Dayton Information Center


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Overview of Civil Asset Forfeitures in Dayton

Ohio’s civil asset forfeiture laws are laid out in the Ohio Revised Code § 2981. These laws serve multiple purposes: 

  • To instill economic disincentives and remedies that discourage you from committing criminal offenses
  • To equip prosecutors with remedial options they can use to offset financial damage from criminal activity
  • To ensure seizures and forfeitures are proportionate to the alleged crime
  • To protect you from wrongful forfeiture actions
  • To create a framework for prioritizing restitution for victims of crime

What to Expect in the Forfeiture Process

Any civil forfeiture action starts with the seizure of property. In Ohio, law enforcement officers and federal agents have the authority to seize your property merely on the suspicion that it represents proceeds from or was used to facilitate criminal activity.

You do not need to be charged with or convicted of a criminal offense for this seizure to occur. Rather, law enforcement must believe the property is subject to forfeiture according to the terms outlined in Ohio Revised Code § 2927.21

If Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) stopped you while you were driving down Interstate 675—in the suburbs of Dayton—and suspected you were involved in criminal activity, the officers can claim they suspected you of drug trafficking or money laundering. With this wisp of probable cause, they can seize property, including cash and vehicles, that they believe is connected to the crime.

Once your property has been seized, you will receive a notice if the prosecutor plans to take a civil forfeiture action on the property. The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs explains how, under equitable sharing laws, if Dayton or Ohio law enforcement are involved in a seizure, their department gets to keep up to 80 percent of forfeiture proceeds. Ohio can also receive federal forfeiture revenues. 

Financial Motives Lead to Abuses 

Not surprisingly, such a system provides ample motivation for government authorities to seize property, especially when profiting from these seizures does not require a charge or conviction of the property owner.

The system was rife with abuses, as exposed by the Institute for Justice, whose Legislative Counsel Lee McGrath commented, “Civil forfeiture is one of the most serious assaults on due process and private property rights in the United States today.” 

Revised Laws Work in Property Owners’ Favor

Thankfully, after much criticism of the civil asset forfeiture laws, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed House Bill (HB) 347, in which the Ohio Legislature significantly changed the manner in which law enforcement and courts handle assets forfeiture cases.

For starters, the modified R.C. 2981.05 precludes prosecutors from pursuing civil forfeiture for assets valued at less than $15,000.

Furthermore, during the course of forfeiture proceedings, property owners no longer have to prove their innocence of a crime. Rather, prosecutors own the burden of proof—and in providing evidence of a criminal offense, prosecutors are held to the high standard of “clear and convincing evidence.” 

This substantially upgraded requirement means the prosecution’s evidence must show it is highly and substantially more probable to be true than untrue that property owners committed a criminal offense justifying forfeiture of their assets. 


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Penalties for Civil Asset Forfeitures in Dayton 

The unfortunate reality of Ohio’s civil asset forfeitures is that property owners can be penalized for crimes they did not commit. Read the news stories below to discover how many people have had their cash or other property seized with forfeiture ultimately ordered. It is a difficult thing to combat if you do not know the players and how they work the system.

Penalties for Dayton International Airport Seizures

 Much of the public outrage surrounding Ohio’s civil asset forfeiture laws stem from the seemingly arbitrary seizures that happen at Dayton airports. Anyone traveling through Dayton International Airport on an international flight is subject to Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN)’s reporting requirements.

FinCen aims to stop currency and monetary instruments that could be part of drug trafficking and money laundering from crossing international borders. As such, any traveler carrying $10,000 or more must report this amount to customs agents using a FinCEN Form 105. Customs agents are required to give travelers ample opportunities to comply.

Any traveler who fails to follow these reporting rules is subject to having their cash seized at the airport. In addition, they could end up paying up to $500,000 in fines and serving as many as 10 years in prison.


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Defenses Against Civil Asset Forfeitures in Ohio

As grim as civil asset forfeiture sounds—and with so much at stake, it should be taken very seriously—one of our civil asset forfeiture lawyers who serve Dayton, Ohio, residents can review your case and determine an appropriate defense strategy for reclaiming your property.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, one of the following defenses might apply:

  • Procedural violation: Law enforcement and prosecutors are held to strict procedures and deadlines. Failing to uphold such procedures could invalidate their case for forfeiture.
  • Innocence of the property owner: This strategy argues that you did not commit the alleged crime, and so the state has no claim on your property.
  • Proportionality: Ohio statute specifies that the value of the seized property must be proportionate to the crime.
  • Illegal search and seizure: Law enforcement officers cannot completely ignore your Fourth Amendment rights. If they did, our lawyers would present this violation in your defense.

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Additional Resources for Civil Asset Forfeitures in Ohio

Ohio Revised Code Chapter 2981 | Forfeiture

The Legislative Service Commission of Ohio provides this website of all Ohio Laws and Administrative Rules, also known as the Revised Code. This link will take you to Chapter 2981 of the R.C., which covers statutes related to forfeiture. If you want to understand what the State of Ohio has established with regard to civil forfeiture action, disposition of seized property, your right to a trial by jury, and other forfeiture-related topics, visit this website. 

United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Asset Forfeiture

This page tells you everything you need to know about how the DEA uses civil asset forfeiture to dismantle money laundering and drug trafficking groups. As the site explains, DEA agents typically need probable cause to seize property. In typical cases, these agents also must have a warrant from a judge. However, there are exceptions. Visit this site to view public forfeiture notices and to learn more about how the DEA handles forfeitures. 

The Institute for Justice “Policing for Profit” Report

The Institute for Justice is a legal organization that focuses on restricting the scope of government power. The group has published several editions of its “Policing for Profit” report, with the most recent being in 2020. This particular link takes you to the IJ report that explores Ohio’s civil forfeiture laws.

As a result of their investigation, the IJ researchers graded Ohio with a “D” for its tracking of seized property, a “C” for accounting of forfeiture spending, an “F” in statewide forfeiture reports, a “C” for accessibility, a “C” for accessibility of forfeiture records, and an “F” for financial audits of forfeiture accounts. In a ranking of all the states, Ohio ranks 41st for equitable sharing. The state earned a “D” for its civil forfeiture laws, due in large part to “limited protections for the innocent” and a large profit incentive for forfeitures. 

FinCEN

If you want to arrive at the James M. Cox Dayton International Airport (or another Ohio airport) prepared with your completed FinCEN Form 105, you can download it at the FinCEN website, complete it, and hand it over to the customs agent at the airport. You will need to report any cash or monetary instruments in excess of $10,000.

Keep in mind that you cannot distribute your cash amongst members of your traveling party to avoid reporting it. Visit the FinCEN website for more information about these and other travel regulations.  

Ohio Supreme Court - State v. Lilliock

The importance of this landmark Ohio Supreme Court decision lies in Justice Clifford F. Brown’s written opinion that forfeiture statutes represent a “derogation of private property rights” and that forfeiture laws “must be strictly construed to avoid a forfeiture of the property.” The court vacated a lower court’s order of forfeiture of the van belonging to a man who had been convicted of receiving stolen property.


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News About Civil Asset Forfeitures in Dayton

May 12, 2021

PCSO Celebrates new K-9 Officer Team

WHIOTV7 reports that asset forfeiture funds and money from the Preble County Sheriff’s Office “furtherance of justice” funds footed the bill for a newly reinstated K-9 program. Specifically, 60 percent of the K-9 unit was paid for using asset forfeitures—marking what Sheriff Mike Simpson calls “a good return,” because criminals are picking up the check for a program that investigates narcotics and other crimes in the county. 

March 19, 2021

Feds Poised to Hook Fryingpan Fishing Retreat

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has filed a civil forfeiture complaint involving billionaire Robert Brockman’s 100-acre property in Colorado’s upper Fryingpan River Valley, reports The Aspen Times. The founder and former CEO of Dayton, Ohio-based Reynolds and Reynolds Col, Brockman allegedly bought and improved the property through a limited liability corporation using $15 million of tainted money.

Now, the government has named two of Brockman’s assets—the acreage at 121 Ash Road and $77.8 million that resides in a Switzerland bank account. Separately, Brockman has been indicted on 39 charges for money laundering, wire fraud, and tax evasion. 

January 2, 2021

Department of Justice Files to Seize Office Building off Public Square as Part of Money Laundering Scheme

News 5 Cleveland reports that the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a civil forfeiture complaint connected to a building whose owner is allegedly involved in embezzlement and fraud. Ukrainian magnate Ihor Kolomoisky, Gennadiy Boholiubov, and other associates formed the “Optima” group, which bought real estate and businesses valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, including 55 Public Square building in Cleveland, Ohio. 

According to the DOJ, the total value of all the Optima group’s properties is around $60 million. However, other Cleveland properties might also be subject to forfeiture.

June 12, 2020

The War on Drugs Gave Rise to ‘No-Knock’ Warrants. Breonna Taylor’s Death Could End Them

This PBS News Hour report exposes the role that civil asset forfeiture plays in “no-knock” raids. These raids, such as the one that led to the death of Breonna Taylor, stem from the U.S.’ war on drugs. The surprise strategy of not knocking before entering the home of a person suspected of criminal drug activity gives suspects little time to react to the raid. 

PBS spoke with Peter Kraska, a professor with the School of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University, who commented on the correlation between no-knock warrants and civil asset forfeiture laws. These laws permit law enforcement to seize property connected to criminal activity—and then keep or sell the property to fund their departments. 

June 11, 2020

Local Study Examines Nationwide Police Use of Militarized Equipment

Dayton Public Radio story talks about the Dayton Police Department (CPD)’s participation in the 1033 Program. The program gives law enforcement agencies access to military property. However, CPD officials responded to journalists’ questions about 1033 by saying the department buys its equipment using asset forfeiture funds and other sources. The radio segment also discusses a 2017 study conducted by a University of Dayton professor, which revealed that law enforcement agencies that participate in the 1033 program show statistically greater involvement in officer killings. 


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FAQs About Civil Asset Forfeitures in Ohio

Q. Where Can I Learn About Ohio’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws?

Ohio’s laws regarding civil asset forfeiture are outlined in the Ohio Revised Code § 2981. Read this section of the R.C. to learn the purpose of Ohio’s forfeiture laws, which types of property are subject to forfeiture, and details regarding the disposition of seized property. 

Q. Will the Court Appoint a Lawyer to Help Me Recover My Seized Property?

No, the court will not assign a public defender to help you with your civil asset forfeiture case. This is because you are not the defendant in this matter—your seized property is the defendant. If you want help with navigating the complex process of recovering your property, you can consider the option of hiring a lawyer from our firm to represent you.

Q. Can I Get My Seized Property Back?

Ohio law does give you the opportunity to recover your seized property. The process involves filing a petition with the right court. This motion consists of three required elements: your interest in the seized property, your explanation of what made the seizure unlawful, and your request to have the property returned. This is a formal procedure with rigid deadlines. If you would like help with the process, a civil asset forfeiture lawyer can help you.

Q. How Much Cash Can I Take on a Plane?

There is no limit to the amount of cash or monetary instruments you can take on a plane. If, however, you are traveling internationally and you are carrying currency or monetary instruments valued at $10,000 or more, you must report it to a customs agent using a FinCEN Form 105. Failure to do so could result in agents seizing your cash. 

Q. Can the Government Order Forfeiture of My Property Without a Conviction?

The government can seize your property without a conviction under the rules of civil asset forfeiture if it can provide “clear and compelling” evidence that the property was the proceeds of a crime or facilitated criminal activity. However, under House Bill 347, which was signed into Ohio law in 2017, if the government wants to order forfeiture on property valued at less than $15,000, it must first convict you in criminal court.

Q. Are There Any Defenses Against Civil Asset Forfeiture?

Yes, even though civil forfeiture is an in rem (against the property) action, your lawyer can raise several defense strategies to block the forfeiture, including procedural violations, innocence, proportionality, and illegal search and seizure. 


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Dayton Civil Asset Forfeitures Lawyer

Many people—from justices to scholars—think of civil asset forfeiture as a grave abuse of due process and property rights. Ohio has taken strides to improve its forfeiture laws, but they still exist, and they can make it quite easy for law enforcement to seize property and for the government to keep it. 

Do not wage the battle to reclaim your property alone. The legal team at Joslyn Law Firm will fight to protect your rights and reclaim what belongs to you.

Call Joslyn Law Firm today for a free case evaluation: (937) 356-3969.


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