Forfeiture of money to FBI allowed

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A man whose $12,000 was seized following an arrest after a traffic stop wasn't entitled to get his money back from the FBI because the organization properly followed the rules, and even went above typical forfeiture proceedings in an attempt to inform the man of the seized money.

In James E. Turner v. Attorney General of the United States of America, 4:05-CV-0081-PRC, James Turner pro se filed a motion in 2005 in an attempt to get back the seized funds. The money was confiscated from the driver of a car Turner was a passenger in, and the driver told police the $12,000 was Turner's money. The Newton County Prosecutor filed a motion to transfer the seized property to the FBI under forfeiture proceedings per 21 U.S.C. Section 881. Turner posted bond after the arrest, and a warrant was issued for his arrest for failure to appear. He was later taken into federal custody for several drug trafficking offenses unrelated to his arrest in Newton County.

In Turner's complaint, he alleges no formal notice of the forfeiture was filed or presented to him and that the FBI should have known he was in federal custody at the time the organization mailed notices to him of the administrative forfeiture proceedings.

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division, dismissed the case, holding Turner was estopped from asserting the claim because the statute of limitations had expired. The 7th Circuit vacated the dismissal and remanded the case.

Magistrate Judge Paul R. Cherry granted the FBI's motion to dismiss Turner's complaint Sept. 29, finding the FBI took reasonable steps and met the constitutional standard of due process in Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank & Trust, Co., 339 U.S. 306, 314 (1950), to provide Turner with notice.

The FBI sent written notice to Turner regarding his opportunity to object to the forfeiture proceedings by certified mail to two different residential addresses but both notices were returned. The FBI also sent a copy of the notice to the attorney who represented Turner in the Newton County misdemeanor case, but the attorney replied that he didn't represent Turner. The FBI published notice of its intention to claim the property in The New York Times for three consecutive weeks.

Those actions were enough to meet the constitutional standards; however, in this case, the FBI went above those actions by searching the National Crime Information Center database, which didn't show Turner was in federal custody at the time of the search. The database only showed his failure to appear in Newton County. There was always the possibility that an arresting agency failed to report or delayed reporting the arrest in the NCIC, which happened in this case.

This case is notable because the FBI was unaware he was in federal custody and took additional efforts to locate Turner in order to provide him notice when it learned its first efforts to notify him failed, wrote the magistrate judge.


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.