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.
Although the notice might encourage you to file a petition for remission or mitigation, 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, hire an attorney to file a claim for court or judicial action to be heard in the U.S. District Court. Your attorney can explain your interest in the property.
Filing the claim focused the FBI to turn the matter over the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Then the Assistant United States Attorney has to file an action in federal court within 90 days or return the property.
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 state 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 the claimant is able to meet specific conditions explained in 18 U.S.C. Section 983(f).
Requirements of a Claim for Property Seized by the FBI
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.
The documents must be submitted to the nearest FBI Field Office, Attention: Forfeiture Paralegal Specialist. FBI locations and telephone numbers can be found at www.fbi.gov. The submitting documentation should reference the Asset ID Number, if known.
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.
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. 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 is most often subject to forfeiture? What is the difference between administrative forfeiture and civil judicial forfeiture? Learn more about case in which no arrest or conviction occurs, but the civil judicial forfeiture referred to as an in rem (against the property) action. 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 Friday, February 7, 2020.