Seizure of property by the government is a practice that has been historically used by governments across the world for ages. This tradition has over time merged with the belief that an individual could be denied the right to property ownership if he/she has engaged in gross criminal conduct. The seizure of property for administrative forfeiture implicates the property owner’s rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. If a state or federal agency has seized or seeks to forfeit your property, you should obtain legal advice and representation from Asset Forfeiture Attorney right away.
What is Administrative Forfeiture?
Administrative forfeiture is a civil proceeding that is instituted by a governmental agency, allowing the federal seizing agency to forfeit the property without judicial involvement. This type of forfeiture is handled internally by the government and do not involve court litigation. Compared to the other two other types of asset forfeitures – civil forfeitures and criminal forfeitures – administrative forfeitures are the commonest, accounting for about 80 percent of all federal forfeitures.
There are numerous state and federal statutes that trigger asset forfeiture, allowing the government to seize an asset by providing sufficient evidence linking the property in question with some illegal activity, regardless of whether the connection is substantial or not. As long as there is a certain level of probable cause, then this is enough for the government to seize and forfeit an asset. To prevent the government from seizing an asset, the rightful owner should act in time by hiring an asset forfeiture attorney and claiming their property rights.
Assets That Can be Administratively Forfeited
There’s virtually no limit on the types of property the government can seize through administrative forfeiture action. Proceedings for administrative forfeitures may involve different types of assets, including:
- Cash, such as corruption proceeds or money derived from criminal activity,
- Bank accounts used to facilitate illegal transactions,
- Goods the importation of which is outlawed,
- A vehicle, boat, plane or any other vessel used to transport prohibited goods or controlled substances,
- A building used to store prohibited goods, controlled substances, or where illegal activities take place,
- Computers, servers or software used to carry out illegal activities, such as printing fake currency or producing pornographic material,
- Tools, equipment or items used in the manufacture or distribution of contraband, etc.
The use of administrative forfeiture aims to destabilize the fiscal infrastructure of the criminal enterprise. By removing the cash flow, profit, tools, and equipment from the criminals’ hands ultimately makes them incapable of operating.
How the Forfeiture System Works
The asset forfeiture community consists of the following federal agencies:
- The United States Marshals Service
- U.S. Attorney’s Offices
- Secret Service
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
- Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I)
- Drug Enforcement Administration (D.E.A)
- Department of Homeland Security
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)
The Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program is administered by the United States Marshals Service. The Marshals Service collaborates with the U.S. attorneys and federal law enforcement agencies countrywide in pre-seizure planning. This is the first crucial step in making sure that sound and well-informed forfeiture decisions are made.
Besides being engaged in pre-seizure planning, the Marshals Service serves as the custodian of seized and forfeited property. It manages and disposes of all properties seized for forfeiture by making use of procedures utilized by the private sector. The Marshals Service deals with eligible vendors who reduce the duration of time a seized asset stays in the inventory and increase the net return to the government.
After a property is seized and forfeited, it is then sold and the proceeds from the sale are deposited into the Assets Forfeiture Fund (AFF). Those proceeds are often shared among the local and state enforcement agencies that partook in the investigation that led to the seizure and forfeiture of the assets. The proceeds can also be used to promote other law enforcement initiatives.
Procedure for Administrative Forfeiture
Notice of Proposed Forfeiture
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) or the seizing agency will publish the Notice of Proposed Forfeiture once a week for at least 3 consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the Federal judicial district in which the asset or property was seized. In case the value of the seized asset or property is less than $1,000, the notice of proposed forfeiture may be posted in a noticeable place accessible to the public at the U.S. Customs House, U.S. District Court, or the National Marine Fisheries Service Enforcement Office nearest the place of seizure.
Besides posting the Notice of Proposed Forfeiture, NOAA or the seizing agency will make an effort to serve the Notice of Proposed Forfeiture on the property owner or each individual whose identity and interest in the property are known or easily verifiable. The information outlined in the notice will include:
- The name of the ruling official, the seizing agency, the street and mailing address of the official to whom petitions should be sent, as well as an asset identifier number,
- A description of the sized asset or property, including any applicable serial or registration numbers,
- Statement that includes time, place, and reason for the asset or property seizure,
- Provisions of law(s) allegedly violated,
- Description of the rights of an interested individual to file a claim to the asset or property, including the right to petition to mitigate or remit the forfeiture.
Declaration of Forfeiture
Should the asset or property owner fail to file a claim within 30 days of the date of the final Notice of Proposed Forfeiture, NOAA goes ahead to declare the asset or property forfeited. The declaration of forfeiture is made in written and then issued to each individual whose identity, identity or interest in the seized and forfeited asset or property is known or easily verifiable. The information outlined in the declaration includes:
- A description of the asset or property,
- A statement that includes time, place, and the reason why the asset or property was seized,
- Provisions of law(s) violated,
- The declaration will also mention the Notice of Proposed Forfeiture and describe the dates and the manner in which the publication of the Notice was made, as well as the efforts that were made to serve the Notice,
- The declaration will also state that a proper petition in response to the Notice was not timely received by the relevant office, and thus all potential claimants are believed to admit the facts of the accusations of the Notice,
- The declaration will finish off with an order of condemnation and forfeiture of the asset or property to the U.S. government for disposition in accordance to law. All seized and forfeited assets and properties are subject to disposition as authorized by law and NOAA regulations.
Asset forfeiture, whether administratively or otherwise, is often a ruthless legal process through which the federal or state government first confiscates and then strives to permanently seize the private asset or property. In most cases, the government takes all assets or properties an individual owns, thus depriving him/her monetary means of defending his/her case.
How to Contest Administrative Forfeiture of your Property
File your Petition for Mitigation or Remission
When filing a petition for remission or mitigation, there are certain requirements that you have to meet. Firstly, the petition must be in writing. Secondly, it must be made under oath, subject to penalty of perjury. Thirdly, it must contain the following information in clear and concise terms:
- Your name, address, SSN or other taxpayer ID number
- The name of the seizing agency,
- The date and place of seizure,
- The asset identifier number,
- Comprehensive description of your seized asset/property,
- Explanation of your interest in the seized asset/property as property owner, lienholder, etc., supported by documentary evidence.
You should note that intentionally filing a frivolous claim may subject you to a civil fine. Intentionally submitting a claim that contains false information also subjects you to prosecution.
Submit your Petition for Mitigation or Remission
After satisfying all requirements, you should file your petition with the specific agency that gave the Notice of Proposed Forfeiture. You should send your petition to the official address of the seizing/notifying agency, which is provided on the notice. You should send your petition either by using a Commercial Delivery Service or by mailing it with the U.S. Postal Service.
Observe Time Limits
You must file your petition subject to administrative forfeiture by the deadline date stipulated in the notice, or within 30 days of the date that the final Notice of Proposed Forfeiture was posted or published. The claim is considered filed on the date it was received by the notifying agency if sent by Commercial Delivery Service or if mailed with the U.S. Postal Service. Not filing a claim by the deadline date may result in the asset or property being forfeited to the government.
Once you file your petition appropriately and timely, the seizing agency will refer the matter to the United States Department of Justice to institute forfeiture proceedings in the appropriate U.S. district court.
What Happens After Filing a Petition for Mitigation or Remission?
After successfully submitting your petition for mitigation or remission, the seizing agency shall look into the merits of your petition and prepare a written report detailing the results of their investigation. The seizing agency will then submit the report to the ruling official.
Upon receipt of your petition and the written report by the seizing agency, the ruling official shall conduct evaluations. Depending on the merits of your petition, the ruling official will either grant or deny a remission or mitigation of the asset forfeiture.
If granted, a written copy of the ruling official’s decision, which shall contain the terms and conditions, as well as the procedures that you must follow in order to obtain the discharge of the seized asset or property will be mailed to you or your attorney of record. A copy of the decision will also be sent to the U.S. Marshals Service or other asset/property custodian.
If denied, a written copy of the ruling official’s decision, which shall spell out the reason(s) as to why your petition was not granted. A copy of the ruling official’s decision shall also be sent to the U.S. Marshals Service or other asset/property custodian. The ruling official will also advise you to submit a request for reconsideration of the denial.
How to Request for Reconsideration
Your request for the ruling official’s reconsideration of the denial of your petition will be considered under certain circumstances, which are:
- If your request is received by the ruling official’s office within ten days from the date you received the notice of denial,
- If your request for reconsideration is based on evidence or information not formerly considered that is material to the basis for the denial,
- If you present a basis that clearly demonstrates that the ruling official’s denial of your petition was erroneous.
How to Request Restoration of Proceeds from Sale of Forfeited Property
In case your seized and forfeited asset or property has already been delivered to a government agency for official use, you can file a petition to have it restored. In case the forfeited asset has already been sold, you can file a petition to have the proceeds from the sale of the forfeited property restored. However, restoration can only be granted if:
- You were not aware of the seizure before the entry of a declaration of administrative forfeiture, and
- There was no way you could have known of the seizure before the entry of a declaration of administrative forfeiture.
You or your attorney should file your petition to have proceeds restored within 90 days of the date your asset/property was disposed of or sold.
Why You Should Hire Asset Forfeiture Attorney
As you have learnt, administrative forfeiture is a complex and ruthless process with crucial deadlines to observe. So, if you’ve been served with the Notice of Proposed Forfeiture, the first step should be to hire an attorney right away. The following are the reasons why you should hire Asset Forfeiture Attorney to represent your interests in an asset forfeiture case:
- Adequate Experience in Asset Forfeiture: If your asset has been seized and forfeited, you don’t just need any attorney, but an attorney with experience in asset forfeiture. When you hire Asset Forfeiture Attorney, you’ll have the pleasure of being served by a highly experienced attorney with a background in both criminal and civil defense.
- A Good Deal of Expertise: In asset forfeiture proceedings, it’s critical to respond right away and to file court documents appropriately. If done incorrectly or filed untimely, there could be disastrous consequences. When you hire Asset Forfeiture Attorney to represent you and your interests in an administrative forfeiture proceeding, you can rest assured that everything will be handled proficiently.
- Proven Track Record of Success: When you hire an attorney from Asset Forfeiture Attorney, you can rest easy knowing that the probability of your petition being granted is high. This is because their attorney has a proven track record of recovering assets and/or cash in over 80 percent of asset forfeiture cases.
- Excellent Relationships with U.S Attorneys: In the many years that Asset Forfeiture Attorney has been in operation, we have been able to forge excellent relationships with the U.S. attorneys across the country. So, we know who to talk to when any kind of situation presents itself.
- Understanding of How the System Works: One of the things that come with experience is a deeper understanding of how the system works. We will ensure that you meet all the requirements and provide all the necessary documentation to ensure a smooth process.
- Combined Effort: Anyone that has worked on an asset forfeiture case can attest that this is not a one-man case. It’s an intricate process that requires combined effort. At Asset Forfeiture Attorney, there’s a team of experts that strive to get our esteemed clients the results they want.
- Exceptional Testimonials: The best way to tell if an attorney is as good as he/she says he/she is, is finding out what others say about him/her. Based on the exceptional testimonials on Yelp and Google Reviews from people who’ve been served by Asset Forfeiture Attorney, you can deduce that this firm has a remarkable reputation.
- Convenience: Due to the time sensitivity of asset forfeiture cases, you need an attorney that will be available when you need them. Attorneys at Asset Forfeiture Attorney are available 24/7, which means that you will be accorded with assistance any time you need it.
- Contingent Fee Arrangement: Unlike many other attorneys that are driven by money, attorneys at Asset Forfeiture are driven by their passion to defend the defenseless. We will fight for you tirelessly and help you repossess your assets without putting money first. We offer a contingent fee arrangement that requires you to pay only if we win.
Are you having an administrative forfeiture having over your head? Do not forfeit your asset or property rights and allow the government to take what you have toiled hard to acquire and own. Do not let your constitutional rights to own property be trodden by an out-of-control law enforcement agent. Stand up for yourself, or better still, let us stand up for your behalf and defend your rights and your hard-earned property.