You must file a CAFRA Seized Asset Claim Form if judicial forfeiture is the best option or the only option left. You should understand that submitting the CAFRA Claim Form means a Federal district court judge will decide your case. You will be required to appear at court on several occasions, exchange written discovery (information sharing), give and take depositions (sworn examination under oath), make and respond to several pre-trial motions (such as motion for summary judgment or motion to dismiss), and ultimately, have a trial with a real judge and real government attorneys cross-examining you about the circumstances of the seizure and your finances. The CAFRA claim form has to be signed by claimant, not an attorney or representative, and filed with Customs or as otherwise directed.
What happens after a filing CAFRA seized asset claim form?
After filing a CAFRA seized asset claim form, the government will have 90 days from receipt of the claim to file a verified complaint to forfeit the money in the federal district court. The procedures are those set forth in the Supplemental Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions. An in rem arrest warrant is issued by a judge which allows the property to be seized from customs, and a verified complaint is filed with the court.
What happens after an in rem arrest warrant and verified complaint are filed?
After the in rem arrest warrant and verified complaint is filed and served on the claimant, the claimant must file another claim with the court. Then the claimant has 21 days to file an answer and begin the long fight to get the seized money back. This includes the filing of initial disclosures, a scheduling/case management order, discovery conference, discovery orders, a discovery plan, and actual discovery (depositions, interrogatories, requests to admit, request for production, etc.), and if you’re not fortunate enough to settle the case, make and respond to several pre-trial motions (such as motion for summary judgment or motion to dismiss), and ultimately, have a trial with a real judge and real government attorneys cross-examining you about the circumstances of the seizure and your finances.
Can a CAFRA seized asset claim case be settled?
Depending on the attitude of those involved with the case and the allegations a CAFRA seized asset claim case can be settled without need for trial. If bulk cash smuggling or structuring is a basis for seizure, or you a claimant is criminally convicted much, if not all, of the money could be forfeited (lost).
Can I get attorney fees in my CAFRA seized asset claim case?
In some cases if a claimant “substantially prevails” in their CAFRA seized asset claim case, the government must pay your attorney fees. However, the costs of judicial forfeiture (via a claim) are much higher than administrative forfeiture (via a petition or offer in compromise) and so it should only be done after thorough consideration and consultation with an experienced attorney.