Civil Assest Forfeiture Lawyer Ottawa • Civil Asset Forfeiture Lawyer Toronto

What is Provincial Civil Asset Forfeiture

The United States pioneered civil asset forfeiture as a way to seize and repurpose what was claimed to be criminal proceeds of crime, without discharging a criminal burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, proof was only required on a balance of probabilities that the assets likely had a criminal origin. No charges are laid against anyone, and there are no convictions. Rather, there is a civil finding by a civil court that the assets should be forfeited to the state. 

The provinces rather than the federal government introduced civil asset forfeiture into Canada, in part to get a bigger slice of proceeds of crime forfeitures that were predominantly going to the Government of Canada. 

Why Fight Provincial Civil Asset Forfeiture

You can lose your home and your savings, and not be guilty of anything, all on a 50% plus one balance of probabilities standard of proof. 

How to Fight Provincial Civil Asset Forfeiture: Top 2 Strategies

The legislation governing this type of forfeiture remains vulnerable to challenge. Not many cases are conducted each year, and those cases frequently settle out of court so that courts don't have the opportunity to rule on the constitutionality or statutory construction of the legislation. You have primarily two means of challenge. 

1. Negotiate a settlement

Because the facts and law on these cases may be weak, the government could be quite open to negotiating a settlement. Whether you find the proposed terms of a settlement acceptable may depend on what percentage of claimed assets the government is willing to settle for as compared to how much you risk going to a contested court hearing, and how much your legal fees might amount to in continuing a contested fight. 

2. Challenge the constitutionality, statutory construction, and factual basis of the government's case

While the Criminal Code is a well-tested piece of legislation where fights are won more on the facts rather than by attacking the legislation itself, provincial civil asset forfeiture remains a new thing that has not been extensively tested. A broad based attack on the constitutionality of the legislation, on how it should be interpreted even if it is constitutional, and against the strength of the evidence against your assets could all be successful.