Have the Police, Homeland Security, CBP, USPS, or the DEA seized your money?
Civil Judicial Forfeiture
Forfeiture to the State
Civil Asset Forfeiture
Homeland Security Forfeiture
Bay Area Police Seizure
San Francisco Seizure
Alameda County Seizure
If you don't correctly file a timely claim within 30 days of receipt of a Notice of Seizure, you may lose your asset or money.
ATTORNEY ISAAC SAFIER CAN HELP.
As Seen In:
*NEW CALIFORNIA LAW ON ASSET FORFEITURE AFFECTS SEIZURES UNDER $40K:
Senate Bill 443 introduced by state Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) has been signed by the Governor after being unanimously approved by the state senate. After earlier versions were defeated, it was rewritten as a compromise between legislators and law enforcement.
SB 443 reforms the asset forfeiture process by tweaking California Health and Safety §11000, et seq. (which allows seizure of property involved in controlled substance crimes). Most importantly, it will generally prohibit equitable sharing (where local police can hand cases over to federal authorities in exchange for a share of the proceeds) without a conviction. The bill would change the burden of proof that a state or local law enforcement agency must meet to succeed in a forfeiture action with regards to cash or negotiable instruments of a value not less than $25,000, but not more than $40,000, from a clear and convincing standard to beyond a reasonable doubt. In addition, it adds some accounting and reporting duties for the state relating to seized funds. (See actual legal code as amended.)
Anderson Cooper on Asset Seizure:
John Oliver explains Civil Forfeiture:
CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE LAW:
Civil asset forfeiture law refers to various statutes that allow the government to seize assets (such as money or property) and then file a civil lawsuit to have a court order it forfeited so that it can be deposited into the government's treasury account (or sold, and keep the proceeds). It is different than criminal forfeiture, which is a process in criminal court that arises out of a criminal indictment and follows a criminal conviction.
The civil asset forfeiture statutes are based on in rem jurisdiction, which means that a case can proceed against an item in the area where it was seized even if the owner is far away. These type of cases begin in England in the 1600s, when the king wished to to seize smuggling ships but found it difficult to locate their owners, and the law was carried over to the colonies that became the United States.
Civil asset forfeiture cases are civil cases against the asset that was seized and are filed in the courthouse near where the property was interdicted. There are many different statutes and laws today that allow government agencies to initiate forfeitures.
State Laws: The state police can pursue forfeiture of property under laws such as California Health and Safety §11470(f), which allows forfeiture of money given to a person in exchange for a controlled substance. A state case title looks like this: "People of California v. $100,000.00 U.S. Currency".
Federal Laws: Federal government agencies such as CBP, Homeland Security, DEA, USPIS and the FBI can pursue forfeiture under statutes such as 21 U.S.C. 881, which makes property acquired as a result of a violation of the Controlled Substances act subject to forfeiture. Federal cases have names like this: "United States v. $100,000.00 U.S. Currency".
Although these cases are civil cases against property or money, the owner must make a claim and litigate on behalf of the seized asset, as a "claimant". When an asset is seized, the government agency conducting the seizure will issue a notice of seizure which includes instructions on how to make a claim.
Federal and State have very different timelines and proceedings.
In federal cases, under CAFRA laws, the seizing agency must send out a Notice of Seizure within 60 days of the seizure. Once a claimant gets notice they have a limited amount of time (usually 30 days), as specified in the notice, to make a claim. If no claims are made, the agency may post the Notice of Seizure on Forfeiture.gov with an extended deadline to make a claim. Claims must be made in compliance with federal law 18 U.S.C. 983 and deficient claims may be rejected. Claims are deemed filed when received, not when sent. The Notice of Seizures may contain the option to elect an administrative process. This means that the seizing agency's attorney reviews the case and makes a decision about whether to return the money. Once a proper claim is correctly filed the U.S. Attorney's office then has 90 days to file a complaint for forfeiture in rem in federal court. This complaint is then served by mail on the claimant or his attorney. The claimant must then file a verified claim in federal court and an answer which responds to the complaint point by point. The case then proceeds as any other civil case. The claimant has the right to request a jury trial.
In California state cases, the Notice of Seizure can be issued within 1 year. If a civil asset forfeiture is initiated the seizing agency will send out a notice with instructions on how to file a claim in civil state court. For smaller amounts of money the forfeiture starts out as administrative, which means that your claim is the first filing in court. For larger amounts the state will file a complaint which requires an answer to be filed. In California, thanks to SB 443, a "beyond a reasonable doubt" burden of proof is required for amounts between $25,000 and $40,000. Filing a claim can be tricky because it must be filed and served on the other party with the correct procedure in the correct court with the correct fee, which can be as much as $450 in state court. If you just mail in a claim you might get a notice back saying that something wasn’t done correctly, but it may be too late if 30 days have passed. In cases when no civil asset forfeiture is filed and there is no pending criminal case, a claimant can file a non-statutory motion to return property in criminal court.
Civil asset forfeiture generates substantial money for police and other government agencies. Many seizing agencies even put forfeiture revenues in their budget. That means that if the government stopped seizing assets, or less than they expected, they would not meet their budgeted revenue. A Washington Post investigation in 2014 showed that police in the United States have seized $2.5 billion in cash from almost 62,000 people since 2001.
In January of 2014 the United States Attorney General at the time, Eric H. Holder, stopped local and state police from using federal law to seize cash and other property without warrants or criminal charges, unless federal authorities were directly involved in the case. A few months later, in March of 2014 he announced new limits on the government’s use of civil asset forfeiture laws.
After 2016, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions encouraged the practice known as “federal adoption,” which allows police and prosecutors to circumvent state restrictions on asset seizures by collaborating with federal authorities. Through this partnership, state and local authorities turn their seizures over to federal colleagues, who “adopt” them for prosecution—ultimately returning up to eighty per cent of the assets to the originating cops or prosecutors to keep, "equitable sharing".
There are many ways in which claimants miss their opportunity to make a lawful claim for their seized assets, which means that the asset forfeiture goes unopposed. Examples include:
When claimants are served with an administrative forfeiture notice while they are in jail, then taking away the paperwork. The 30 day clock starts ticking but they cannot find an asset forfeiture attorney while they are in jail and their public defender or criminal defense attorney may not assist with their claim.
When a forfeiture notice is sent to the wrong address (for example, an old address from an ID or Driver's License). The 30 day clock ticks away as the notice makes its way to the person who has ownership of the asset and wishes to file a claim.
Confusing instructions on how and where to make a claim opposing forfeiture. State claims must be filed in state civil court with payment of the correct filing fee. A non-compliant claim could get rejected by the court clerk causing the deadline to be missed.
When claimants are confronted with confusing instructions with multiple options they may waive their rights to a federal court trial and have their case heard in front of an agency lawyer instead.
If you have had your money seized by the state police or a federal government agency such as USPS, CBP, Homeland Security or the DEA, it is very important that you contact a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible so that a claim can be filed within 30 days.
The information on this website is for informational purposes only and do not constitute advertising, solicitation, or legal advice. This information does not create an attorney-client relationship and may not reflect the most current legal developments.
Former DEA HQ Asset Forfeiture Attorney Bernard James Minarik II
ANNOUNCEMENT: Bernard Minarik II
Former DEA HQ Asset Forfeiture Attorney Bernard James Minarik II is assisting my practice with certain cases in the capacity of a consultant. If you are interested in having him involved in your case, please ask me for more information.
Bernard "Bernie" was the DEA Acting International Forfeiture Training Instructor and the DEA Acting Asset Forfeiture Instructor at the FBI Academy, Quantico, VA, where he provided training to foreign government law enforcement leaders and government officials, federal, state and local law enforcement officials.
There is no better way to fight your forfeiture case than to have one of the six original DEA Special Agent/Asset Forfeiture Attorneys on your side. Bernie brings his substantial experience to bear when evaluating cases and determining strategy.
WHAT KIND OF CASE DO YOU HAVE?
Money Seized by USPS:
Federal case in the jurisdiction of the seizure.
Money Seized at Airport:
It depends. The DEA or local sheriff/police can handle these. Federal or State case in the jurisdiction of the airport.
Money Seized from Fedex or UPS:
Typically a State Case in the jurisdiction of seizure in state court.