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Supreme Court may hear case about federal forfeiture

When people are accused of committing white collar or other federal crimes in New York, authorities often seize property that they believe was stolen or paid for with the proceeds of criminal activities. In some cases, authorities will freeze all of a defendant's financial assets even if a large portion of those assets are not linked to any alleged criminal activity.

On May 18, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to make an announcement about whether it will hear a case about federal forfeiture and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. If the Supreme Court decides to hear the case, it will rule on whether federal forfeiture violates a defendant's Sixth Amendment rights by depriving them of the funds they need to pay for the legal counsel of their choice.

The issues that may be considered by the Supreme Court stem from a health care fraud case in Miami. In 2012, the president of two health care companies in Miami was accused of defrauding Medicare out of $45 million. The same day that the woman was indicted, all of her assets were immediately frozen. Her lawyer is arguing that the government's decision to freeze her assets before she was convicted of a crime rendered her incapable of investing in her own defense.

A person who is being targeted for a white collar crime investigation may choose to obtain legal counsel before they are indicted. Typically, white collar crime investigations go on for a long time before any criminal charges are actually filed. In some cases, an attorney can help a person who is being investigated for these types of federal crimes to avoid criminal charges entirely.

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