Question: Why is it important to have an attorney in a criminal forfeiture case?
Benson Varghese: Forfeiture is based on very arcane principles of law, which started out as admiralty law, and it dates back to the times when pirates were taking people’s property. Even for a criminal defense practitioner, asset forfeiture is generally outside of their wheelhouse. It’s also outside the wheelhouse of many civil attorneys because they don’t handle these types of cases very often.
You need an asset forfeiture attorney because the area of law that will be required for your attorney to be proficient in is very specialized. You need to go to someone who handles these types of cases regularly; whether the asset is $50,000 or $5 million, those principles are the same and they’re driven by very strict deadlines and discovery rules that are more similar to the civil practice of law than the criminal practice of law.