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Warrant of Arrest in Rem

What is a motion for issuance of warrant of arrest in rem?

After filing a complaint in a cash seizure and forfeiture case, when the Government is already in possession of cash, the Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA)  will request an order directing the Clerk of the District Court to issue a Warrant of Arrest in Rem for the U.S. Currency named as the Defendant Funds.

In support of its motion for issuance of warrant of arrest in rem, the United States will show that the U.S. Currency named as the Defendant Funds was seized by federal agents.

Many of these seizures of U.S. Currency occur at an airport, a bus or train station, or on the highways. The federal agents that seize U.S. Currency might involve agents with:

  • Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
  • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI)

The federal agents will claim that the seizure was based on probable cause to believe that the Defendant Funds constitute:

  1. money furnished or intended to be furnished by a person in exchange for a controlled substance in violation of the Controlled Substances Act;
  2. proceeds traceable to such an exchange; or
  3. money used or intended to be used to facilitate a violation of the Controlled Substances Act.

In addition to the drug trade, the seizure for forfeiture can be based on other types of criminal activity such as money laundering.

As a result of the seizure, the Defendant Funds are being held by the United States. But after the United States files a Verified Complaint for Forfeiture in Rem, the court might find that it establishes the legal and factual basis supporting the forfeiture of the Defendant Funds.

As required by Rule G(2)(f), the Assistant United States Attorney will allege that the facts set forth in the Verified Complaint support a reasonable belief that the government will be able to meet its burden of proof at trial. That proof specifically requires that the United States will be able to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the Defendant Funds constitute property subject to forfeiture.

Legal Authority for a Warrant of Arrest in Rem – Rule G(3)(b)(i)

As legal authority, the AUSA will point to Rule G(3)(b)(i). Pursuant to Rule G(3)(b)(i), the Clerk of Court must issue a warrant of arrest in rem for defendant funds if such property is in the government’s possession, custody, or control.

In contrast, the Local Admiralty Rule in many district courts (such as Local Admiralty Rule 7.03(b)(1) in the Middle District of Florida) which preceded the enactment of Rule G, required that, “pre-seizure” (emphasis added), “a judicial officer [must] first review the verified complaint, and any other relevant case papers, prior to the Clerk issuing the warrant of arrest and/or summons in rem.”

Rule G, however, recognizes that if the property is in the government’s possession, there has already been some determination of probable cause or agreement of the parties and the further precautionary step of preliminary judicial review is unnecessary.

Rule G took effect on December 1, 2006. Prior to December 1, 2006, the Local Admiralty Rule 7.03(b)(1) in the Middle District of Florida articulated the procedure for obtaining a warrant of arrest in rem in that district.

Since Rule G(3)(b)(i) explicitly provides that a judicial finding of probable cause need not be made before the Clerk issues a warrant of arrest in rem for property already in the custody of the United States, when the Defendant Funds are in the United States’ custody, the United States will request that the enter an order directing the Clerk to issue the Warrant of Arrest in Rem for the Defendant Funds.

The court will then enter an Order on Motion for Issuance of Warrant In Rem directing the clerk to issue the warrant for the arrest of the U.S. Currency in rem. The U.S. Marshal will then file Form USM-285, a five-copy form set designed as a control document for a process served by a U.S. Marshal or designee.


Finding an Attorney to Contest the Civil Asset Forfeiture

If you receive notice that an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) filed a complaint for forfeiture and caused a warrant of arrest in rem to be issued to Homeland Security Investigations or any other authorized federal law enforcement officer, then contact an experienced civil asset forfeiture attorney Sammis Law Firm.

We can help you file an answer to the Verified Complaint for Forfeiture in Rem against your seized U.S. Currency or other property.

After you receive notice that the complaint for forfeiture was filed in the U.S. District Court, you only have 35 days from the time the notice was sent to file a Verified Claim in accordance with Rule G(5), of the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims. You only have twenty (20) days thereafter to file an Answer or other responsive pleading to the Complaint.

The Claim and Answer or other responsive pleadings must be filed with the Clerk of the Court in the appropriate United States District Court. The Claim must:

  • identify the specific property claimed;
  • identify the claimant;
  • state the claimant’s interest in the property; and
  • be signed by the claimant under penalty of perjury.

If you fail to file a claim for the property within the allotted time and in compliance with the strict requirements of Supplemental Rule G, then your property may be forfeited to the United States by default and without further notice or hearing.

We fight seizures of currency for forfeiture at Amtrak train stations, bus stations, and airports throughout Florida. Filing the claim and answer is only just the beginning. Contact an attorney at Sammis Law Firm to discuss any civil asset forfeiture case. Call 813-250-0500.


This article was last updated on Thursday, January 28, 2021.

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