Civil forfeiture: Substance, procedure, and possible challenges

by Elena Broder, Esq., from the law firm of Jenner & Block, Washington D.C.
(c) 1998

[Note:  this law review article is in the FEAR Brief Bank, which is available by subscription only.  Pro se forfeiture victims may obtain a waiver of the Brief Bank subscription fees by contacting Tom Gordon.  Attorneys may obtain a waiver of the subscription fees in exchange for volunteer work for FEAR.  Contact Brenda Grantland to volunteer.]

Table of Contents

Part I

I. Civil forfeiture under the drug laws: 21 U.S.C. § 881

II. Procedural overview of the seizure and forfeiture of items covered by § 881(a)

        A. Seizure-- § 881(b)

        B. Forfeiture Procedures

            1. Administrative forfeiture

            2. Forfeiture by judicial condemnation

III. Possible constitutional challenges to civil forfeiture under the drug laws

        A. Section 881(b) and the Fourth Amendment

                   1. Notice requirements

                   2. Hearing

                   3. Cost bond

            C.  Judicial condemnation

                   1. Is the burden of proof established by 19 U.S.C. § 1615 unconstitutional?

                   2. Must the government use admissible evidence to make out its showing of probable cause?

Part II

IV. Possible statutory interpretation challenges under federal forfeiture law

            A. The innocent owner defense

                   1. Analysis

                           a.  Knowledge

                           b. "Willful blindness"

                           c. "Consent"

                           d. Conjunctive or disjunctive requirements

                   2. Evaluation

            B. Property-conduct nexus

                   1. Statutory language

                   2. Case law and legislative history

                   3. Extrastatutory limitations

                           a. History

                           b. Constitutional limitations

                    4. Evaluation

V.  Conclusion