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FBI Seizures and Forfeitures

In many civil asset forfeiture cases, U.S. currency or other property might be seized by agents with the FBI and then subjected to a forfeiture proceeding. The FBI can initiate the forfeiture proceeding even though no arrest was ever made.

After the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) seizes money or other assets, the FBI is required to give notice that the property was seized for federal forfeiture because of a specific violation of federal law. The laws and procedures applicable to the forfeiture process are found at 19 U.S.C. Sections 1602 – 1619, 18 U.S.C. Section 983, and 28 C.F.R. Parts 8 and 9.

In civil asset forfeiture cases, the notice might encourage you to file a petition for remission or mitigation to make an offer in compromise, the better course of action is to hire an attorney to file a “claim for court action” that might force the immediate return of the property being held by the FBI.

The government will only consider granting petitions for remission or mitigation, under limited circumstances to pardon all or part of the property from the forfeiture. Many claims for remission or mitigation are denied with a form letter.

Instead of letting the FBI decide what happens with the money or other seized property, hire an attorney to file a claim for court action. The claim triggers a 90-day deadline for the Assistant United States Attorney to either return the money or file a complaint for forfeiture in the U.S. District Court.

We are familiar with the tactics used by the FBI when they seize money at the airport. For instance, FBI agents often seize U.S. currency from travelers at the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. After the seizure, the FBI agent will issue a paper receipt that might reference forfeiture pursuant to 21 U.S.C. 881.

The FBI’s asset forfeiture section has a team of attorneys and paralegal specialists working on ways to keep you separated from your money. You also need an experienced attorney to can fight to get it back.

Attorney for Filing a Claim after an FBI Seizure

You can hire an attorney to contest the forfeiture of the property seized by the FBI. The claim can be filed immediately after the seizure or within the time period written listed in your notice letter.

In some cases, the claim can be filed in the U.S. District Court within 30 days after the date of the final publication of the notice of seizure.

In the claim, your attorney will describe the seized property and explain your ownership or other interest in the property. The claim must be made under oath that is subject to the penalty of perjury or other meets the requirements of an unsworn statement under penalty of perjury as provided in 18 U.S.C. Section 983(a)(2)(C) and 28 U.S.C. Section 1746.

Your attorney can help you file the proper claim and request the release of the seized property during the pendency of forfeiture proceedings due to hardship if you are able to meet specific conditions explained in 18 U.S.C. Section 983(f).

Call 813-250-0500.


Requirements of a Claim for Property Seized by the FBI

When submitting a verified claim for court action, the paperwork must be submitted to the local FBI Field Office and to the attention of the Forfeiture Paralegal Specialist. The FBI field office locations and telephone numbers can be found at www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field.

The submitting documentation should reference the Asset ID Number, if known.

When claiming a hardship because of the FBI seizure of property, the claimant must establish the following:

  • the possessory interest in the property;
  • the claimant’s sufficient ties to the community to assure that the property will be available at the time of trial; and
  • a showing that the government’s continued possession will cause substantial hardship to the claimant.

The hardship provisions are found in 18 U.S.C. Section 983(f) and 28 C.F.R. Section 8.15. Some types of assets are not eligible for hardship release.


Role of the FBI’s Forfeiture Paralegal Specialist

The FBI’s Forfeiture Paralegal Specialist evaluations the forfeiture cases and helps prepare it for litigation. During the evaluation, the Forfeiture Paralegal Specialist will determine the identity of any person requiring legal notice by obtaining documents, records, or testimony.

The Forfeiture Paralegal Specialist prepares legal notices for publication and performs administrative activities associated with the seizure, storage, and disposal of both forfeitable and abandoned property. The Forfeiture Paralegal Specialist also maintains contact with attorneys representing petitioners and defendants.

When the money or property is returned to the petitioner, the Forfeiture Paralegal Specialist for the FBI prepares the closing paperwork.

The FBI considers forfeiture to be an effective law enforcement tool. Forfeiture helps the FBI disrupt criminal organizations. Unfortunately, innocent people can get caught up in the process. An experienced attorney can help you fight to get back seized property during a civil asset forfeiture proceeding.


Additional Resources

FBI Legal Notices for Abandoned Property – The FBI publishes a list of legal notices concerning all abandoned or unclaimed property in the custody of the FBI. The description of the property shows its location and the FBI office that has custody of the property. An attorney can help you file a claim for the property pursuant to Title 41, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 128-48. When submitting documentation, please reference the Asset ID Number. Submit all documents to the nearest FBI Field Office, Attention: Forfeiture Paralegal Specialist. The FBI locations and telephone numbers can be found at www.fbi.gov. The deadline to file the claim is 30 days from the date the property was first published in this notice. If a claim is not filed within that time period, then the title to the property will vest in the United States.

FBI on Asset Forfeiture – Visit the website of the FBI to find the answers to frequently asked questions including: What is asset forfeiture? Why does the FBI use asset forfeiture? What types of property are most often subject to forfeiture? What is the difference between administrative forfeiture and civil judicial forfeiture? Learn more civil judicial forfeiture cases referred to as an in rem (against the property) action when no arrest or conviction occurs. In civil judicial forfeiture for property seized by an FBI agent, an individual has the right to contest the seizure through trial proceedings. Find several examples of forfeiture actions and how they proceeded through the system.


This article was last updated on Tuesday, December 8, 2020.

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