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Sunday, November 17, 2013

What to Do When the Feds Seize and Attempt to Forfeit your Cash or Property

Let's say you are at the Minneapolis airport and happen to be carrying $50,000.00 in cash in your backpack. The cash does not represent proceeds from any criminal activity. Instead, you are a hardworking American citizen who  dutifully saved the cash from the profits made running a small business.  Your plan is fly to California and use the cash to purchase  another small business at a bargain price.  You have  been waiting patiently in line and are about to go through airport security. Drops of sweat begin to glide down your back. You are nervous about your hard-earned cash.  The TSA officer greats you with a friendly smile and begins to dig  deeply into the bottom reaches of your backpack. The officer detects a suspicious  bag.  The bag is removed  and opened. The TSA officer's jaw drops as he gazes upon stacks of crisp one hundred dollar bills.  Shortly thereafter, a DEA officer   arrives on the scene, seizes  the bag of money,  and orders  you to follow him to windowless room. You object to the seizure of your cash and inform the officer the money is all legitimate. The officer laughs in your face and tells you that's what all drug dealers say. You are offended and demand the  immediate return of your cash. Your plea is disregarded. The officer hands you a  receipt verifying that your cash has been seized by the DEA. You are free to leave,  but nowhere on the receipt does it indicate  how much cash was  taken. All you are told  is that you will  receive a letter within 60 days. What is going to happen and what should you do?

The seizure and forfeiture of property by the Government  has  been around along time. Last year the Government seized $4 billion through forfeiture. There are two types of forfeiture, criminal and civil. A criminal forfeiture is judicial and occurs when a person in indicted in federal court for a crime and the property seized is named in the indictment. The seized property can only be forfeited if the person is convicted and the property can be traced to or connected with the underlying crime. In a civil forfeiture proceeding, the action is commenced against the property, not the person. As a consequence, no one is ever charged with a crime.

In the above airport example, a civil forfeiture proceeding is commenced. Within 60 days of the seizure, the Government must send written notice of the seizure to the small business owner. If the Government fails to send notice of the seizure within the sixty day period, the seized property must be returned to the owner subject to the Government's right to commence a forfeiture proceeding at a later time.

Within 35 days after the mailing of the written notice of seizure letter, the business owner must file a claim of ownership to the property. The claim must specifically identify the property, state the claimant's interest in the property, and be made under oath, subject to the penalty of perjury. Within 90 days of filing the claim of ownership, the Government must file a forfeiture complaint in federal district court. If the Government fails to file a forfeiture complaint or obtain a criminal indictment within the 90 day period, they must promptly return the seized property to the owner and can take no further action against the property.

There is a long list of the type of property subject to forfeiture including property involved in transactions with money laundering, property traceable to federal loan fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and controlled substance crimes. The burden of proof will be on the Government to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the property is subject to forfeiture. The Government in our example will need to prove that the fifty thousand dollars in cash  was derived from, or traceable to, any proceeds obtained directly or indirectly from the commission of a criminal offense. The claimant will need to introduce evidence as trial proving that the cash was derived from earnings made running a legitimate small business.

Don't let the Government take cash, homes and cars without anyone ever being convicted or  charged with  a crime. If you are a victim of a civil forfeiture proceeding,  call Minneapolis defense attorney Robert J. Shane for a free phone consultation at (612) 339-1024 and stand up for your rights. Mr. Shane will file a claim on your behalf and demand a prompt hearing to contest the civil forfeiture of your property.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

When Can Police Freeze a Suspected Drug House while Obtaining a Search Warrant?

Officers who conduct a lawful arrest may   freeze a suspected drug house  while obtaining a  search warrant.  Officers must have  probable cause to believe that evidence of criminal activity may be found on the premises. When officers freeze a drug house, all occupants  will be required to stay and will be detained   while other officers  engage in the process of obtaining a search warrant. No police search can occur in the suspected drug house  without a  warrant.
Confidential informants often provide police with reliable information to establish probable cause that a residence or business is being used to store drugs. This situation may occur when after a controlled buy of narcotics is made,  police observe a drug dealer go inside  a business or residence. In order to freeze the suspected drug house, police must reasonably fear that the occupants of the drug house will attempt to destroy any narcotics once they become aware of the arrest of the drug dealer.
If the police do not have probable cause to believe evidence of criminal activity will be found in a suspected drug house and police do not fear the immediate destruction of the  evidence,  the freezing of the drug house pending the issuance of the search warrant would be unconstitutional. The Fourth Amendment protects the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searched and seizures. U.S. Const. amend IV. When there is an illegal search and seizure by police, the evidence can not  be used against a defendant at criminal trial and the charge is dismissed.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense resulting from a drug raid, call criminal defense attorney Robert J. Shane for a free phone consultation at (612) 339-1024 or visit his website at for more information on the Best Defense.