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DEA Seizure Letter What to Do

What to Do When You Get a DEA Seizure Letter

Don’t Panic – Take Action

When you receive a seizure letter from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), it can be scary to say the least. The seizure letter will state that the DEA has taken possession of your property, including cash, vehicles, or other valuables you owned. The letter will also give you a short timeframe – usually around 35 days – to file a claim demanding that the DEA return the seized assets.

It’s 100% understandable that you are feeling anxious about this. You shouldn’t let fear stop you from asserting your rights. With an attorney, and the right legal strategy, many people are able to get their property back from the DEA.

Step 1: Carefully Review the DEA Letter

Take a deep breath – and review all the details in the DEA letter. This letter will provide important information, including:

  • Date the letter was issued
  • Identification numbers for the DEA seized assets
  • Descriptions of the seized property
  • Declared value of the seized assets
  • Deadline to file a claim (typically 35 days)

You should make sure to save the original letter and make copies of it for your attorney. It’s likely you’ll need to refer back to it throughout the process.

Step 2: File an Administrative Claim

Filing an administrative claim is very important to get your property back. Your claim has to be submitted by the deadline stated in the DEA seizure letter – usually within 35 days of receiving notice. When you send the letter, make sure to send it via certified mail and keep detailed records of the DEA seizure letter response.

The claim letter response you send should clearly identify you as the owner, explain your interest in the property, and a demand that the assets be returned immediately. You don’t need to go into too much detail; you’ll have many opportunities later to make constitutional and legal arguments.

Step 3: Wait for the DEA’s Next Move

After receiving your claim, the DEA and federal prosecutors will review the case. There are a few things that could happen next in this process:

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The Government Will Initiate Forfeiture Proceedings

If the DEA decides they are going to move forward with forfeiting your property, they will proceed with filing a civil case against you in federal court. You’ll be served with a complaint outlining the DEA’s allegations.

Once this happens, you should hire an experienced federal attorney to defend your rights in the lawsuit. Your federal lawyer can help create the strongest possible legal argument and defenses so you get your property back.

Property Returned

There is a chance the DEA will determine insufficient grounds exist, for forfeiture and, decide to return your seized assets. This doesn’t happen often, but it’s not unheard of – and it’s very possible this could help.

The Case Could Drag On

It’s possible the DEA fails to take any action after your claim is filed. Months or years can go by without a resolution. This is unfortunately quite common in forfeiture cases, and one you should be prepared for. You will want to be aware of this when speaking to a federal lawyer and hiring them.

If too much time passes (generally over 5 years), your federal lawyer can file a motion to dismiss based on the unreasonable delay.

Step 4: File a Verified Claim in Court

If the DEA starts judicial forfeiture proceedings against you, your next step is to file a verified claim in federal court. This has to be done within 30 days of receiving notice that a forfeiture lawsuit has been filed.

The verified claim asserts your interest in the seized property and proceeds with asserting your legal right to contest the forfeiture. After the claim is filed, you’ll also need to submit an answer to the specific allegations within 20 days.

Defenses and Strategies to Recover Your Property

Your federal attorney can raise various defenses and legal arguments to fight the forfeiture, including:

Innocent Owner Defense

If you can show you weren’t aware the property was connected to any illegal conduct, you could reclaim it as an innocent owner. This is possible in some instances.

Unreasonable Delay

If too much time lapses between the seizure and the filing of forfeiture proceedings, you can argue the delay was unreasonable and violated your Constitutional rights.

Illegal Search and Seizure

If law enforcement agents violated proper search and seizure laws when confiscating your property, those constitutional violations could nullify the forfeiture from the DEA. This is possible.


The Eighth Amendment prohibits disproportionate forfeitures to the crime. Your federal lawyer can argue the seizure was unconstitutional on these grounds, and get your assets back.

Statutory Defenses

Forfeiture laws also contain certain statutory defenses that could apply to your case. An experienced federal attorney can identify and assert them on your behalf.

Work with a Lawyer

Navigating the confusing DEA forfeiture process without a lawyer is very difficult, and often you’ll fail.

Federal forfeiture laws are complex and designed to favor law enforcement. They don’t want to return your property.

Hiring a federal lawyer experienced in fighting DEA seizures gives you the best possible chance of successfully recovering your property. Don’t let the government bully you into giving up property that rightfully belongs to you. Know your rights and fight back.

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