When you’re in prison or jail, you are stuck behind bars and unable to access your bank accounts or pay bills. So what happens to your stuff while you’re inside? That’s actually a common question many clients ask their San Diego criminal lawyer.
Where Does Your Stuff Go?
Well, that’s actually up to you. The state might seize assets that are used as evidence or that they believe is connected to a crime (a controversial process called civil asset forfeiture), but they won’t seize any other property. This mean that you could put your stuff in storage, give it to someone else to take care of, or leave it where it is.
If you put your stuff in storage or leave it where it is, you’ll have to pay the bills associated with your storage unit, rent, mortgage, tax bills, etc. But when you’re behind bars, you can’t actually handle any financial transactions so these bills will pile up and you can’t personally pay them.
What About Bills?
This is something you need to put a lot of thought into before you are sentenced. Even if you have a friend or family member to take care of your personal possessions, almost everyone has some kind of bills they need to pay while they are behind bars. A monthly Netflix subscription can drain your account until it’s empty thanks to automatic withdrawals from your account and credit card bills you pay manually can go in default and end up in collections. And, of course, if your property isn’t in the care of loved ones, you could lose all of your stuff if your bank account balance is too low for the automatic withdrawals associated with your storage unit, rent or mortgage.
On the other hand, if you have no recurring payments, you may still have problems as many banks will freeze your account if no activity occurs within 6 to 12 months. If you can afford it and your sentence is longer than this, a small recurring payment may actually be beneficial to prevent your account from becoming frozen. The government may also freeze your accounts for a time and eventually seize the funds if they believe you financially benefited from the crime.
All of this could mean that you could easily end up leaving prison with no money in your bank account, a destroyed credit rating and with creditors calling you on a daily basis. Pile this onto the fact that you’ll have a much harder time finding a good paying job with a conviction on your record and you’ll find it can be pretty hard to get back on your feet after leaving jail or prison.
Taking Care of Business
That’s why San Diego criminal lawyers recommend taking care of your situation before you end up behind bars. This may be difficult if you are arrested and unable to obtain bail, but you may still be able to handle some of these matters before being convicted while in meetings with your attorney. If you are sentenced to jail or prison, a lawyer can ask the judge for a report date for custody so you can have time to take care of your affairs.
While you are in prison, you will need to have someone else handle your financial affairs. For most people, this means temporarily giving all of your assets to a family member or close friend. The only problem is that they are not legally required to give the assets back when you are released unless you create a binding legal agreement first.
Alternatively, you can give someone legal authority to act on your behalf, sometimes by setting up a joint a bank account although there are other ways to do this that limit the other person’s power even more. Essentially this gives you some control over how the person accesses your accounts. For example, you could make it so the other person can only deposit or transfer funds, but cannot withdraw them. Or, you can limit the amount they can withdraw from your account.
Finally, if you have a lot of assets, it might make sense to put all of your assets into a trust and then give power of attorney to a loved one or a financial professional. Trustees are legally obligated to keep your financial interests in mind when determining what to do with your property and money.
San Diego criminal attorneys remind that if their plans require opening a bank account, they need to do in before they are incarcerated as you cannot open a bank account while you are behind bars as all banks require you to be present when opening an account.
Even if you are sentenced to life imprisonment, you should still take care of your finances just in case something happens and you are released. You may also want to create a will just in case something bad happens to you while you’re behind bars.
If you have any questions about what might happen to your stuff if you end up being incarcerated, be sure to ask your San Diego criminal defense attorney. You can discuss this information during your free initial consultation with Peter M. Liss. Call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule your appointment.
Creative Commons Image by Michael Coghlan