What to Do if the Federal Government Seizes Your Bank Accounts and Personal or Real Property

by Peter Scimeca

First, avoid the temptation to say anything to the investigators, which will usually be FBI, IRS, or Homeland Security Task Force Agents. If your bank account(s) or other personal property have been seized, it is through a clandestine process whereby a seizure warrant has been obtained from a federal judge by presenting a detailed affidavit of probable cause signed and verified by the federal agent. The investigators are well past the point of believing you are innocent if he or she has said under oath to a federal judge you are not. He or she wants you to talk to further incriminate yourself for a later arrest for criminal charges. DO NOT FALL INTO THE INVESTIGATOR’S TRAP!

Second, pay close attention to any notices you receive the day of seizure or shortly thereafter. The Department of Justice can administratively forfeit your property without any further court intervention if you do not assert your rights. Real property has different rules than personal property so pay close attention to any action against real property. The statutes governing administrative forfeitures and some, but not all, related proceedings are found at 18 U.S.C. Sections 981 and 983-985 and at 19 U.S.C. 1602-1621. The law requires notice by the seizing agency to potential claimants in administrative forfeiture cases within a particular statutory time period, which is generally 60 days unless the agency takes defined steps to extend that time. 18 U.S.C. Section 983(a). Upon a determination by the seizing agency that forfeiture is appropriate, the agency must provide notice of the administrative forfeiture. 19 U.S.C. § 1607(a). The agency should provide personal notice to parties known to the Government to have an interest in the property and, in addition, public notice should also be provided in some general circulation paper. The time to file a claim is no earlier than 35 days after the date of a letter from the seizing agency providing personal notice to a claimant. If a claim is not timely filed in accordance with the regulations, a claimant can lose his or her property. Don’t let this happen to you.

Third, contact a lawyer familiar with the federal forfeiture law to ensure your rights are protected. All sorts of parties can file a claim to seized property including but not limited to: defendants, spouses of defendants, and creditors. The federal forfeiture system is not designed for ease of use for the claimant/defendant. The Department of Justice has highly trained staff and lawyers to take your property and without a lawyer familiar with the law, you could lose a lifetime of work without every seeing a courtroom.

For more information, contact Peter Scimeca at 272-9241 or scimecapl@andrewsdavis.com.


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1 comment (Add your own)

1. Andy Anderson wrote:
That is very good to know. Should it ever happen to me, would respond to the letter immediately. Thanks again for the warning of waiting 35 days to respond. If ever need a lawyer, your it. Thanks!

Tue, December 13, 2016 @ 9:19 AM

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