If you have received a DEA seizure letter, this will occur after called notice of seizure of property and initiation of administrative forfeiture proceedings from the DEA. You also may receive a receive a “CAFRA election of proceedings” form from Customs.
This letter will warn you that if you do not file a claim within the stated time allowed, the property will be forfeited to the US government. The form lists the information describing the seized property, such as notice data, asset ID numbers, property description, value of the assets, and more.
Once you have a DEA seizure letter, know that the forfeiture law outlaws you from filing a civil lawsuit to get your money back. Rather, it is the US government that is supposed to start the forfeiture process in a reasonable period of time. If it fails to do so, you can bring a defense of unreasonable defense later on.
When you have the DEA seizure letter, your best bet is to wait. If you want to inquire with the DEA what is the delay, it is better to write a letter than to call them. It is not desirable for them to ask questions about your federal case, or the alleged crimes that led to the cash or property seizure. Note that everything you can will be used against you. It is important to maintain all copies of the letters that you send the DEA so that you can use them if you want to file a motion to dismiss.
File an Administrative Claim
When you get a DEA seizure letter, in the vast majority of the cases, you must file a claim that demands early judicial intervention in US District Court. So it is important to file a timely administrative claim. Also, you should have to post a cost bond, if necessary in your case. That may be 10% of the value of your property. The forfeiture notice will inform you if it is necessary or not. You have 35 days after you get the notice to file your claim. The claim needs to be sworn under penalty of perjury. (Forfeiture.gov)
Keep in mind that the notice could say that you can file a petition for mitigation or remission. But we do not recommend this, as it will be at the discretion of the seizing agent, and they will probably not do that. This process has no way of appeal, either.
After the claim is filed and you pay the cost bond, the US attorney will go over the case. If they decide to proceed with the forfeiture, there will be a civil case filed with the appropriate US district court, and you will have a complaint served against you.
You have 30 days to file a verified claim that reports your interest in the property. After that, there are 20 days where you can file an answer. It is required to state if you admit, deny or do not have enough information in the allegations in the letter. Next, listen one or more of the defenses you find below. Also, be sure to demand a jury trial in the response:
- Innocent: If you can indicate that you did not know the cash was being used in an illegal fashion, you will get your cash back.
- Unreasonable delay: If the US government wait too long to file your case, you can prevail if you can show that the delay was too long.
- Illegal search and seizure: You can make a move to suppress evidence that was taken from you illegally.
- Statutory defenses: All forfeiture statutes do have other defenses that could be relevant.
- Disproportionality: Property that is forfeited that is disproportionate to the level of the offense committed are unconstitutional.
More Information About DEA Seizures
The process to get your money or property back from the DEA depends on if the seizure was done the state, federal or local authorities. In some cases, it may be unclear if the seizure was state or federal. But if the seizure happens at an airport or border, it is normally a federal case.
Some of the common types of seizures that can involve a DEA seizure letter are:
Airport travelers often are distracted with their trip so if a federal law enforcement officer comes up to them and starts to ask questions, they might give consent to search. The DEA can ask random questions and search airports, and they can seize cash because they think you did some type of crime. Any cash that is seized at the airport, you should be certain to file an administrative claim to get it back as soon as possible. The DEA often wrongly seizes large amounts of cash at airports.
The DEA may seize your money or property under highly questionable circumstances in any public areas and even in your house, as long as they have a warrant.
US Customs Border Seizures
The US Customs and Border Protection Agency may seize cash at various border crossings into the United States at road and airport checkpoints. There have been a number of seizures in recent times by US Customs. It is key to know there is no limit to how much money you can take in or out of the US, you do have to report amounts that are $10,000 or higher.
Although it is not required to have an attorney to contest an action by the DEA, you should have an attorney such as experienced DEA seizure attorney Geoffrey Nathan at your side at each stage of the case. Your attorney will give you the best chance of getting your property back, and can make sure you do not have to deal with heavy discovery requests from the federal government that really are just to embarrass or harass you. Remember that you have only 30 days within the date of the letter to file a claim.