What to Know about Property Forfeiture Laws in Colombia
Property Forfeiture laws in Colombia are very strict and difficult to beat in court. However, there area a few experienced lawyers in Colombia who have a history of great results in these types of process. When asked, Criminal Defense Attorney Heriberto Rivera, -who is one of these lawyers- explained a little bit about how he has achieved such success and why these processes are so difficult to beat. He explains:
It is extremely important for anyone who finds themselves or their property involved in this type of process, to seek the advice on an experienced lawyer who has handled property forfeiture cases before. That is because of the complexity involved in defending such cases. If you find yourself in that position, the best thing to do is to get professional advice at once from someone who knows Colombian property forfeiture law and what it takes to win these legal processes.
Property Forfeiture Laws in Simple Terms
For those who don`t know what happens in these types of processes, I will explain in simple English. Basically the government seizes a property and then the owner has to claim it back by way of a legal procedure. This legal process involves a trial and requires hiring an attorney. If the owner of the property doesn`t succeed in the trial, then he or she loses his or her rights over the property and the government becomes the new owner. This is the simplest way to explain it in general terms.
The legal definition can be found in the law itself, which is Law 1708 sanctioned in 2014. By reading the statute, you can get the specifics of when and why the law can be applied. Which is mainly when the property was purchased with money coming from criminal activities, such as drugs and human trafficking, extortion, kidnappings, money laundering and many others. Also, if the property was either part or involved in any type of criminal activities by way of being an element in the chain of events and/or activities. Example: An apartment being used to distribute narcotics or a vehicle used to transport them.
Property Forfeiture in Colombia
The City of Medellin and surrounding areas have been the main places in Colombia where property forfeiture laws have been applied the most in the last few years. Although most forfeiture trials involve real estate such as apartments, houses, land, fincas and commercial property, the law is also applied to other assets. The government can -and usually does- go after all type of property and assets such as; vehicles, furniture, artwork, companies, bank accounts, cash, jewelry, stock, and many other things. Anything of value can be subjected to this type of legal process. Property forfeiture laws in Colombia allow the government to go after any asset, whether in Colombia or abroad.
This type of legal process is quite complex, especially when it comes to defending against government accusations which usually involve a long investigation period. That is why, it is extremely important to have experienced counsel when confronted with such an issue.
Proper Legal Advice in Key in Property Forfeiture Cases in Colombia
When someone finds out that either one or many of their assets are being targeted for forfeiture or have been seized by authorities, there isn`t much time to spare. If a property or your assets are part of a criminal investigation or are involved in what is called “Extincion de Dominio” process, you must act quickly. If the owner of the property or assets doesn`t act fast and lets the government know that he or she plans to fight for their rights in court, then those assets are at great risk.
Moreover, it is important to know that property forfeiture laws in Colombia are very strict and in them, there is no such thing as innocent until proven guilty. These laws transfer the burden of proof on to the owner of the property. It is necessary to proof that there is no criminal link to the property subjected to a forfeiture process, if you want to be successful. Seizure of the property is only a first step if authorities choose to do so, otherwise they just notify the owner that the property is involved in such process and the owner has to proof otherwise. If unable to do so, then the government forfeits the owner`s rights over the property and becomes the new owner.
This is why, the proper legal advice and/or representation by an experienced attorney is key in winning a case involving property forfeiture laws in Colombia.