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The constitutionality of freezing all assets before conviction

Some lawyers are expressing concern for Texas defendants who have had their assets, tainted and untainted, frozen by the government. The case of one defendant from Miami is one prominent example; she was the president of two healthcare companies before she was indicted on charges of defrauding the government in October 2012.

She was accused of using the Medicare program to collect $45 million in fraudulent funds by bribing patients who agreed to home healthcare but did not need or receive it. All of her funds were frozen on the same day of her indictment. Numerous attorneys and some judges are now debating on whether or not it was constitutional to leave her effectively penniless and without the ability to hire an attorney of her choice.

The attorneys of the accused woman argued that much of her net worth was unrelated to the fraud and should be reinstated so that she can pay legal fees and other case-related expenses. But the federal judge's decision stood firm, preventing her from retaining any legitimate funds whatsoever due to criminal fraud charges. An appeal of the ruling resulted in a panel upholding the judge's original decision.

The defendant has not yet been sentenced, and as such, she is presumably innocent; this means that the freezing of her legitimate funds could be seen as a move to stop the defendant from properly arguing her case. Others are arguing that the funds should have been frozen because the judge had discovered probable cause that she spent a large portion of fraudulent assets on luxuries such as vacations and expensive items. An experienced criminal defense lawyer could help her re-obtain her legitimate funds, thereby strengthening her case.

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