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Federal Administrative Asset Forfeiture

Federal agencies have the ability to forfeit your property "administratively," meaning without a court ever becoming involved. Many defendants, after having property seized, simply walk away from the property and never contest the seizure. In those cases, the property is administratively forfeited to the United States. Since agencies often try to forfeit property administratively, if you wish to contest the seizure of your property, it is vital that you put in a timely claim and retain a forfeiture lawyer or asset seizure attorney familiar with the laws, rules and regulations of such forfeiture. Once a claim is made, the seizure is referred to the prosecutor's office for a determination of whether to initiate a judicial case (civil or criminal). In a forfeiture proceeding, you always have the right to have your day in court – and an attorney. But you have to watch deadlines or risk having a default. Again, it could not be more critical and central to your particular case to recognize the important of securing a lawyer in this forfeiture process.

Federal Asset Forfeiture: The Administrative Forfeiture

In fact, a huge majority of all forfeitures in the United States every year are administrative forfeitures. Why? Because most people never contest their forfeiture proceedings. The process usually starts when an agency, such as the FBI or Secret Service or DEA, seizes property during an investigation. The property can be taken from your car, your home, or your pockets, among other places. If law enforcement can show probable cause to believe that the property was used to commit a crime or was the proceeds of a crime, then it can begin an administrative process.

The government must first start by sending notice of its intent to forfeit the property to any potential third party claimants who it believes might be an owner or have an ownership right in the property. It then must give general notice to the world of its intent to forfeit the property. It usually does so by posting notice on a government website at

Federal Asset Forfeiture: Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000

In 2000, the government changed the rules of administrative forfeiture quite dramatically by passing the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000, which is commonly referred to as CAFRA. Under CAFRA, the seizing agency must start the administrative forfeiture within a certain time period and must give potential claimants a certain amount of time to put in a claim. The government then has a certain amount of time to respond to refer the matter to the United States Attorney’s Office or to return the property.

Importantly, agencies cannot use this forfeiture process if the property is worth more than $500,000 or is real estate. In those cases, the only option available for government forfeiture is to do criminal or civil forfeiture in a court.

Remember, any asset forfeiture proceeding, whether administrative, civil or criminal, has its own legal nuances, rules and requirements. If you fail to follow the procedures or exercise your rights, your property – whether its worth a few thousand or a few million – very likely will be lost forever. Don’t make the mistake of not properly securing and advocating for your rights. Let Saland Law’s experience, knowledge and advocacy work for you.

Call the Federal asset forfeiture lawyers and former New York City prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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