§245 Expedited Procedures for Vehicles
California District Court
Florida District Court
Michigan District Court
Ohio District Court
9th Circuit says expedited procedures for vehicles apply to drug-related money laundering case. (245) The government sought forfeiture of various vehicles titled in a car dealer who used his business to launder drug money. The complaint alleged that the cars were purchased with drug money, subjecting them to forfeiture under 21 U.S.C. §881(a)(6), and that they were involved in transactions designed to conceal their purchase with drug money, thus subjecting them to forfeiture under the money laundering statute, 18 U.S.C. §981(a)(1)(A). The government failed to file a forfeiture complaint within sixty days after claimants filed a claim and cost bond, thus failing to comply with 21 U.S.C. §888(c), which mandates expedited procedures in the case of vehicles “seized for a drug-related offense.” The government conceded it had violated §888(c) with respect to the §881(a)(6) claim, but argued that its second cause of action survived because the expedited procedures of §881(c) do not apply to money laundering forfeitures. The Ninth Circuit disagreed. Even though not all money laundering forfeitures involve an underlying drug offense, this one did. The court concluded that Congress intended the remedial provisions of §888(c) to be generously applied. U.S. v. One 1997 Mercedes, E420, 175 F.3d 1129 (9th Cir. 1999).
California District Court finds U.S. violated law requiring expedited procedures for vehicles. (245) The DEA seized two vehicles believed to be purchased with drug proceeds. However, they did not provide written notice of seizure and intent to forfeit until 54 days after the seizure. The district court found that this seizure was subject to 21 U.S.C. §888(b), which requires in the case of “conveyances” that the government provide written notice of the seizure “at the earliest practicable opportunity.” The court adopted the reasoning of the Seventh Circuit in U.S. v. Indoor Cultivation Equipment from High Tech Indoor Garden Supply, 55 F.3d 1311 (7th Cir. 1995), and rejected the government’s assertion that the expedited procedures of Sec. 888 apply only to vehicles seized for having facilitated a drug offense under 21 U.S.C. Sec. 881(a)(4). The district court went on to hold that the 54-day delay between seizure and written notice violated Sec. 888(b). Nonetheless, the court did not order dismissal of the action, but instead ordered the vehicles to be returned immediately subject to the posting of a full-value bond. U.S. v. One 1996 Toyota Camry Sedan, 963 F.Supp. 903 (C.D. Cal. 1997).
California District Court rules 62-day delay in mailing seizure notice required return of seized property. (245) 21 U.S.C. §881-1(b), as amended in 1988, requires the seizing agency to give written notice of the seizure at the “earliest practicable opportunity after determining ownership of the seized conveyance.” Section 881-1(c) requires the government to file its forfeiture complaint within 60 days after a claimant has filed his claim and cost bond. District Judge Thompson noted that since the claim and cost bond cannot be filed until the seizure notice is issued, the government can delay the proceedings simply by delaying the seizure notice. Here, the government took 62 days to mail out the seizure notice. Judge Thompson held that the statutory language “cannot realistically contemplate a delay longer than a week after ownership is determined,” and that “it is within [the court’s] discretion to permanently return a claimant’s vehicle” where the agency has failed to send a seizure notice within that time period. Accordingly he ordered the vehicle returned and “the forfeiture shall not take place.” Dwyer v. U.S., 716 F.Supp. 1337 (S.D.Cal. 1989).
Florida District Court says time limits for forfeiting conveyances do not apply to proceeds. (245) Conveyances “seized for a drug-related offense” are subject to expedited forfeiture procedures under 21 U.S.C. §888(c). When the claimant’s aircraft was seized, he posted a bond, and the government failed to file a complaint within 60 days. The court found that the government’s tardiness barred it from seeking forfeiture of the plane as “facilitating” property under 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(4), but did not preclude forfeiting the aircraft as proceeds of drug trafficking under §881(a)(6). The court agreed with the holding of U.S. v. A 1966 Ford Mustang, 945 F.Supp. 149, 151-52 (S.D. Ohio 1996), and disagreed with U.S. v. Indoor Cultivation Equipment, 55 F.3d 1311, 1314-16 (7th Cir. 1995). U.S. v. One (1) 1980 Cessna 441 Conquest II Aircraft, 989 F.Supp. 1465, 11 Fla. Law Weekly Fed. D. 484 (S.D. Fla. 1997).
Michigan District Court says notice of vehicle forfeiture sent 21 days after seizure was timely. (245) The FBI arrested claimant and seized his vehicle because it contained seven kilograms of cocaine in a hidden compartment. Twenty-one days later, the agency sent notices of forfeiture to two residences identified as claimant’s and to the jail at which he was thought to be housed. He had been moved to another jail and the notice was returned. Sixty-eight days after seizure of the car, the FBI sent two more notices, one of which claimant received in jail. Claimant filed a claim and cost bond. The government filed a civil forfeiture action. The district court found the government had not violated the special expedited notice provisions of 21 U.S.C. §888(b) requiring that notice of forfeiture of vehicles must be “furnish[ed] … at the earliest practicable opportunity after determining ownership….” The court appeared to define “furnish” as “attempted to furnish.” It emphasized that the first effort at notice occurred only 21 days after seizure, even though notice was not effected for another six weeks. The court also emphasized the fact that claimant here suffered no prejudice from the delay because he was in jail and couldn’t use the car anyway. U.S. v. One 1990 GMC Jimmy, 972 F.Supp. 1091 (E.D. Mich. 1997).
Ohio District Court holds expedited procedure for administratively seized vehicles not applicable to criminal forfeiture. (245) In cases in which a “conveyance” has been administratively seized in connection with a drug crime, 21 U.S.C. §888(c) requires that the government file a judicial forfeiture complaint within sixty days of the filing of the claim and cost bond. Defendants sought dismissal of an indictment, including criminal forfeiture counts against two vehicles. When the vehicles were first seized and notice given for their administrative forfeiture, defendants filed proper claims, but the government filed no civil complaint in response. Although the government’s failure to file a timely civil forfeiture action constituted an absolute bar to civil forfeiture, the district court held that 21 U.S.C. §888(c) is not applicable to, and thus does not bar, a subsequent criminal forfeiture. U.S. v. Clinkscale, 86 F.Supp.2d 780 (N.D. Ohio 2000).