Miami Seized Property Attorney
It is not at all uncommon in federal criminal cases for agents of the federal government, such as the FBI, DEA, Homeland Security, U.S. Marshals, etc., to seize property after a search. Such property is typically seized because the agents feel that the property seized is or may be evidence of a crime. In many cases, a search warrant may have been issued, authorizing the agents to seize certain items. Sometimes, the property is seized after a “consent search.” Contact our experienced Miami seized property attorneys for more information.
The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure makes provisions in Rule 41(g) for an aggrieved person to ask a judge in the United States District Court in the district in which the property was seized, to order the return of the property. If a criminal case is pending, the courts will often decline to rule on such a motion until the criminal case is over.
You should also be aware that the government often moves to forfeit property through civil forfeiture proceedings. When that occurs, the district judges will almost never allow the issue of the return of seized property to be determined by a Rule 41(g) motion for return of property.
Now, let’s consider a typical scenario. A person is arrested and numerous items of personal property were seized from his or her home, office car, boat, airplane, etc. The criminal case concludes, and the person properly wants the property returned. In an overwhelming majority of instances, the person is entitled to have his or her property returned – quickly, unless the government can show the court that it has some legal justification for continuing to hold the property.
The seizure of personal property by government officials often causes great harm to the owner of the property, who is deprived of the property for months or even years. If you are such a person, retaining the services of a competent and experienced criminal defense lawyer who is well-versed in federal criminal law and procedure can often get your property returned quickly. Many clients inquire as to whether a civil law suit can be filed against the agents or the federal government for wrongfully seizing the property. Unfortunately, in most instances, the doctrine of sovereign immunity prevents such a civil law suit from going forward and the recovery of damages.
In my 40 years as a criminal defense lawyer, I have found that many agents and prosecutors are good and reasonable people. I have been very successful over the years in getting property returned by informally discussing the matter with prosecutors and, sometimes, with agents. If your lawyer is polite, courteous and professional, and is backed by facts justifying the return of seized property, federal prosecutors will often agree to have the property released or returned without the need for filing a motion for return of property in the United States District Court.
Prosecutors do not want to be embarrassed in court or with their superiors in the United States Attorneys Office or in federal court by being unreasonable in these circumstances. Federal judges have little patience for prosecutors wasting the court’s time by unnecessarily or unfairly holding property that the government is not entitled to. Prosecutors’ reputations often depend on their perceived fairness and reasonableness. Judges talk amongst themselves, and a prosecutor who is unreasonable or unfair is often perceived as a zealot. Intelligent prosecutors do not want to be placed in this category.