Civil & Criminal Asset Forfeiture

We have a proven track record of success in handling over 20,000 criminal cases and consistently awarded as one of Ohio’s Best Criminal Defense Firms. We treat our clients like family with a non-judgmental approach. Knowledge is power in any situation. We are here to help educate you about your circumstances. Use our resources below to contact us and learn how we can help you.

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Civil & Criminal Asset Forfeiture Attorney in Cincinnati, OH

It is absolutely legal for the government to seize your property, and Cincinnati, Ohio, law does not even require a conviction for this to happen.

The civil and criminal asset forfeiture attorneys at Joslyn Law Firm fight to protect the property rights of the people of Cincinnati, Ohio. Our firm has handled more than 20,000 criminal cases throughout the state. The legal industry regularly recognizes Joslyn Law Firm’s team of dedicated trial veterans, who include a former Franklin County Public Defender and a former Hamilton County Prosecutor.

The National Trial Lawyers Association voted our firm into their prestigious “top 100” law firms, and the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys selected Brian Joslyn as a “Top 10 Criminal Lawyer” in Ohio.

Put Your Case in Reputable Hands

We are ready to come to your defense and help you if law enforcement seized your property. We attribute our success to our talented legal team of dedicated and compassionate attorneys and paralegals.

Under the umbrella of civil asset forfeiture, if the government can demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that your property was used to facilitate a crime, they can seize your property without a criminal conviction. On the other hand, criminal asset forfeiture can occur only after a court convicts you of a crime. As part of your sentence, the government can seize any property linked with facilitating that crime.

Even members of the media (NBC4, ABC6, 10WBNS, FOX28, The Columbus Dispatch, and The Plain Dealer) recognize the criminal expertise we have gained in this time, regularly reaching out to Brian Joslyn as a source for any coverage of criminal law. The editors of Columbus CEO Magazine even named Brian as one of Central Ohio’s “Top Lawyers,” as we also counsel clients in this region of the state.

Call Joslyn Law Firm today for a free consultation: (513) 399-6289.

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Cincinnati Lawyers for Civil and Criminal Asset Forfeiture

If the State of Ohio or the U.S. government has seized your assets, you should be aware of some important information about your rights.

No Right to Counsel

You do not have a constitutional right to counsel in an asset forfeiture proceeding.

Criminal forfeiture is an in personam action (meaning the action is against you, the defendant), so you will need to be charged with a crime before the government can seize your property. However, many criminal defendants are surprised to learn that this forfeiture happens separate and apart from the defendant’s criminal trial.

As such, neither the state of Ohio nor the federal courts are constitutionally bound to provide legal counsel for a criminal asset forfeiture hearing. Rather, it is incumbent on you to retain legal counsel.

No Need for Conviction

Furthermore, be aware that cases of civil asset forfeiture constitute in rem actions, meaning the seized property (not you) is the subject of the forfeiture action. As such, state and federal courts do not have to charge—much less convict—you to confiscate your property.

As you might imagine, these government rights regarding property seizures can put you in dark, unfamiliar legal waters. Whether civil or criminal in nature, the seizing of your property makes it incumbent on you to retain legal counsel, and you should consider hiring one of our lawyers with deep knowledge of asset forfeitures.

We Bring Knowledge, Experience, and Peace of Mind

Our law firm’s civil and criminal asset forfeiture attorneys bring to their cases a strong acquaintanceship with Cincinnati and Ohio courts and court personnel. Our relationships and history with judges, prosecutors, probation officers, and court staff equip us with beneficial insight into how these key players will handle, interpret, and act on your case.

We will help you file a motion for the return of your seized property and will litigate on your behalf in this proceeding. If the state of Ohio tries to hold on to your property in violation of state or federal laws that govern civil and criminal asset forfeiture, we will raise this argument to the courts and vigorously fight.

Your property is your property. We understand you are eager for its return and that you will have questions and concerns throughout the course of your case. Take comfort in knowing that Joslyn Law Firm staff are available after hours and on weekends and most holidays. Your peace of mind matters to us, and we are here for you.

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Civil and Criminal Asset Forfeitures in Cincinnati Information Center

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Overview of Civil and Criminal Asset Forfeitures in Cincinnati

Asset forfeiture enjoys a 200-year-old history in the United States, but the laws governing this type of action have faced significant changes over recent years. In 2007, the Ohio General Assembly repealed the Ohio Revised Code Chapter that addressed disposition and forfeiture of property seized by a law enforcement agency.

The new statute, Ohio Revised Code Chapter 2981, seeks to “to balance punitive and remedial policies with the imperative of limiting the state’s exercise of police power in derogation of private property rights.”

In 2017, the Ohio Legislature announced that Ohio Governor John Kasich signed a bill—HB 347—aimed at curbing the power of law enforcement agencies to permanently seize property from owners who have not been convicted of a criminal offense.

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The Purpose of Ohio’s Asset Forfeiture Laws

The R.C. 2981 statute explains that by enabling the seizing and forfeiting of criminal proceeds, contraband, and instrumentalities, Ohio forfeiture laws serve several purposes:

  • As economic disincentives and remedies, they aim to deter crimes.
  • They provide remedies that offset the economic effects of crimes.
  • They make certain that instrumentalities (guns, computers, phones, money, and so on) are seized and forfeited in a manner proportionate to the crime.
  • They protect against wrongful forfeiture.
  • They prioritize restitution for crime victims.

Types of Property the Government Can Seize and Forfeit

Ohio asset forfeiture laws outline the scope of property that the government can take, provided that law enforcement has probable cause that the property is subject to forfeiture. Types of properties include the following:

  • Any contraband you might have used in committing a criminal offense
  • Any proceeds you might have acquired as products of the criminal offense
  • Any instrumentality you used to commit a criminal offense or which facilitated the commission of the crime

After Property Has Been Seized

When a government entity seizes property under Ohio statutes, they acquire a provisional title to the property. Law enforcement must notify the property owner that their property has been taken.

If the property owner feels that law enforcement wrongfully seized the property, the owner can pursue relief by filing a motion requesting that the property be returned. The court will schedule a hearing wherein the entity that seized the property must show “by a preponderance of the evidence” that they did so lawfully.

In the case of a criminal asset forfeiture that occurs after a defendant has been indicted, such a motion is treated as a motion to suppress evidence.

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Penalties for Civil and Criminal Asset Forfeitures in Cincinnati

Criminal asset forfeiture serves as a punishment for a crime of which a person has been convicted. The taking of assets is just a penalty the defendant faces—separate and apart from the penalties and punishments tied to the defendant’s conviction.

With civil asset forfeiture, the property, in essence, has broken the law. The penalties of this violation are therefore enacted on the property. Accordingly, this type of forfeiture requires no conviction—not even a criminal charge must precede the seizing and retaining of property. The property owner suffers the consequences of a law enforcement officer merely believing that the property might be connected to a crime, as outlined by Ohio statutes.

If, however, federal agents seize your currency or financial instrument at the Cincinnati/Northern International Airport (CVG) because you fail to report that you are carrying $10,000 or more on an international flight, you could face additional civil and criminal penalties. These penalties include possible fines of up to $500,000 and a 10-year prison term.

Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) troopers also have the right to seize your cash for forfeiture if they can establish probable cause supporting that the cash is or was involved in either money laundering or drug trafficking.

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Defenses Against Civil and Criminal Asset Forfeitures in Ohio

When Ohio amended its forfeiture laws in 2017, legislators focused their efforts on protecting property owners from invariable abuses. Still, the abuses continue.

When you hire Joslyn Law Firm to handle your civil or criminal asset forfeiture in Cincinnati, our lawyers will study the circumstances of the seizing of your property and challenge its legality. We will fight to protect your rights using any of several defenses.

Illegal search and seizure

Law enforcement officers must follow strict procedures when they perform searches and seize property. We can investigate the details of your case to determine if police violated your rights as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.


Ohio statutes require that law enforcement show a sense of proportion when seizing property. This means that the value of the property in question must be proportionate to the crime that officers or agents are alleging. With this defense, our lawyers will work to show that the property value is, in fact, disproportionate to the offense.


Civil forfeiture actions must be filed within a specific time period, as established by Ohio statute. Furthermore, the law enforcement officer who seized your property has a deadline for serving notice of the civil forfeiture action. Ohio courts take these deadlines seriously, and if we can show that they were missed, we will likely move your case based on a procedural defense.

Innocent Owner

Remember that a civil asset forfeiture is based on a specific crime. Our asset forfeiture lawyers can provide evidence that you had no knowledge of the alleged crime—and had no involvement in the offense.

Filing a Claim

A straightforward strategy for resolving an asset forfeiture is to file an administrative forfeiture claim. With our knowledge of the process, deadlines, and things you can do to substantiate your claim (such as supplying supporting evidence), our firm can help you navigate this process.

Our attorneys also stand ready to file a claim for court action in your civil or criminal asset forfeiture.

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Additional Resources for Civil and Criminal Asset Forfeitures in Ohio

National Archives Founding Documents

The first 10 amendments of the U.S. Constitution, also known as the Bill of Rights, guarantee every citizen 10 specific rights. The Fourth Amendment guarantees your right from unreasonable searches and seizures. This right often serves as the basis for defense in criminal matters, and it can be raised as an argument in certain civil and criminal asset forfeitures. This website offers reams of information about the rights guaranteed to you by the U.S. government—how they came about, what they mean, and so on.

U.S. Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Asset Forfeiture Program (AFMS) aims to help federal agencies and task forces with their execution of asset forfeitures. Because the AFMS manages and administers the DOJ Assets Forfeiture Fund and Seized Assets Deposit Fund, the group’s website is stocked with news, resources, and reports that relate to federal asset forfeiture.

FBI Fact Sheet: Asset Forfeiture

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) uses asset forfeiture to strip offenders and criminal organizations of the proceeds from their offenses. On this FBI webpage dedicated to asset forfeiture, you can read about the history of asset forfeiture, the Victims Program, and how forfeited funds are used. Particularly useful and interesting are the examples of asset forfeiture cases.

Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office

The Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office has a team of prosecutors that work the county’s forfeiture unit. After police seize property under Ohio R.C. 2981, the unit’s prosecutors determine whether the seizure was founded on probable cause that the property came about from criminal activity or was used in the commission of a crime.

Terry v. Ohio Opinion Summary and Annotations from Justia

This landmark Supreme Court decision arose from an Ohio police officer having reason to believe that a group of men were about to rob a store and, furthermore, that the men were armed and dangerous. When the officer patted one of the men, he detected a gun.

The Supreme Court held that the police were within their right to frisk the men without probable cause, as the officer had a reasonable suspicion that the men were casing the store. The Court’s decision further specifies that a search in such a case must be restricted in scope to areas that would most likely reveal weapons.

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News About Civil and Criminal Asset Forfeitures in Cincinnati

November 25, 2020

How to Beat Legalized Larceny

The author of this article writes about something he calls “legalized larceny”—the act of DEA and other agencies seizing large sums of currency from people at airports in the guise of suspecting a crime. According to Jacob Sullum, once an agency has their hands on the seized funds, the owner will likely have a hard time getting the money returned unless they fight back with the help of one of our lawyers.

June 12, 2020
The war on drugs gave rise to ‘no-knock’ warrants. Breonna Taylor’s death could end them

PBS News Hour covers the banning of a Louisville policing tactic that enabled police to enter the apartment of Breonna Taylor unannounced, ultimately leading to the woman’s death. The tactic, called a “no-knock warrant,” had already been suspended by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. The City Council’s ban of such warrants will render the ban permanent. This type of legislative action represents just one aspect of a full-blown Justice in Policing Act that Democrats proposed a week before the writing of this article.

November 29, 2016

After $11k Seized at CVG, Man to Get Money Back Plus Interest in Settlement

Charles Clarke II was traveling through the airport with $11,000 he had saved for his college tuition, reports The Enquirer. DEA task force officers responded to a drug dog detecting the smell of pot in Clarke’s pocket where he was holding his cash. The agents searched and found no drugs, but based on their “reasonable suspicion” that the cash was connected to drug activity, the task force officers seized Clarke’s cash.

February 21, 2016

Ky Seizure Laws Under Scrutiny by Local Lawmaker Enquirer reports that Kentucky Rep. Diane St. Onge, R-Lakeside Park is questioning loopholes in the state’s seizures and forfeitures laws. In an effort to curb abuses of these laws, St. Onge is advocating for more stringent guidelines and full transparency regarding forfeitures.

The legislator is co-sponsoring a bill that would require a criminal conviction for such asset forfeitures. She also calls for revisiting the lack of reporting requirement for seized assets and the lawfulness of agencies retaining the entire seized and forfeited amounts.

July 15, 2015        

Asset-Forfeiture Laws Raise Concerns

This piece, published by The Wall Street Journal, opens with the real-life anecdote of Joseph Rivers, a 22-year-old man traveling on an Amtrak Train to California. When a DEA agent asked to search Rivers’ luggage and seized $16,000, it added fuel to the fire of an already hot debate about federal civil asset forfeiture laws.

It did not matter that Rivers’ money represented funds raised by his family and friends so he could follow his dream of a music career in Los Angeles. Forfeiture laws authorize agents to confiscate such sums, and they do not even have to charge the property owner with a crime to do so.

FAQs About Civil and Criminal Asset Forfeitures in Ohio

Q. What Can the Government Seize in Asset Forfeiture?

The government, law enforcement, and federal agents can seize any property they have reasonable suspicion was the proceeds of a crime or somehow facilitated a crime. Such property includes firearms, currency, and contraband.

Q. What are Two Types of Asset Forfeiture?

Asset forfeiture consists of either civil asset forfeiture or criminal asset forfeiture. The latter requires that the property owner be convicted of a crime before the assets can be seized and forfeited. In contrast, the former does not require a conviction—or even a criminal charge—for property to be seized. Officers merely must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the property owner used the property to facilitate a crime.

Q. What is the Purpose of Asset Forfeiture?

Asset forfeiture is used as an economic disincentive, primarily aimed at deterring crimes. Seized and forfeited assets also help provide remedies that offset the damages resulting from criminal acts.

Q. Do agents need a warrant to search and seize my property in a Cincinnati airport?

Although the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees your protection against unlawful government searches and seizures, customs agents and other federal officers do not need a warrant to search your carry-on bags or luggage at Cincinnati airports. Such searches qualify as a “special needs exception” to the Fourth Amendment.

Q. What is the difference between asset seizure and asset forfeiture?

The seizing of property refers to law enforcement taking your property away. Forfeiture refers to the permanent loss of your right to use your property and results from a court order or judgment.

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Cincinnati Civil and Criminal Asset Forfeitures Lawyer

If federal agents or Cincinnati law enforcement officers seized your property, consider hiring one of our lawyers who will fight to protect your rights.

The experienced civil and criminal asset forfeiture lawyers at Joslyn Law Firm stand up for the rights of the people of Cincinnati, and we will use our knowledge of federal and state forfeiture laws to fight for what is rightfully yours.

We will file a claim on your behalf and if necessary, take the matter to court for resolution. Call Joslyn Law Firm today for a free consultation: (513) 399-6289.

The seizing of property refers to law enforcement taking your property away. Forfeiture refers to the permanent loss of your right to use your property and results from a court order or judgment.

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  • Brian Joslyn was named Best Lawyer in 2019 by Birdeye.
  • Columbus CEO magazine has yearly selections for the best attorneys in Columbus Ohio. Brian Joslyn has been identified as one of the most highly skilled attorneys across central Ohio.
  • Brian Joslyn has earned recognition for community leadership by Lawyer LegionLawyer Legion
  • Preeminent Attorney Award. Peer rated for highest level of professional excellence.
  • The Better Business Bureau (BBB), founded in 1912, is a private, nonprofit organization whose self-described mission is to focus on advancing marketplace trust.

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