You were at home and minding your own business… when the police come with a search warrant for you home. During the search, the police start hauling out anything of value including televisions, cash, and the first motorcycle you purchased in high school. A couple of days later, you are served with paperwork telling you that your property was seized by the State as alleged proceeds of drug dealing. The paperwork also tells you that you have 20 days to answer… so you call the officer and ask him/her if you have to do anything. They tell you that you don’t have to do anything…. But conveniently forget to tell you that if you do nothing, then you will lose all of your property by default.
What you have actually been served with is a notice of seizure. The State is required to give you this notice if they intend to keep your stuff. The rules of civil procedure apply to these types of seizure. This means that if you do not file an answer by the end of 20 days, then a default judgment can be entered against you without any other hearings or notice. A default judgment is what the name implies—a judgment that happens because you failed to file an answer.
Even though seizures are civil matters, you should visit with a criminal attorney before filing an answer to decide if you should file one or not. Once you file an answer, then the State could file additional motions against you. A criminal attorney can help you decide whether or not filing an answer will save your stuff or expose you to further criminal liability.
*This is not a substitute for legal advice. Any person accused of a crime should consult with an attorney for more information specific to their case.
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