Were you flying to California or Colorado on a one-way ticket? Was your ticket purchased within 72 hours of travel? Do you have a criminal record for a drug related offense? Are you a man between 18 and 40 years of age? I bet you are the victim of a Chicago O’Hare Airport money seizure.
No Attorney Fee/Costs Unless We Recover
If two or three of the above conditions are true, it is no surprise you were stopped, questioned, and searched by the DEA at Chicago O’Hare Airport.
Chicago O’Hare Airport Money Seizure and the Law
Law enforcement, including the DEA, has access to flight manifests for every commercial flight that takes off and lands at every commercial airport in the country, including Chicago O’Hare Airport. These lists give the DEA the name and date of birth of every passenger, including information about whether or not they are traveling on a one-way ticket or a round trip ticket.
Getting red flagged likely begins with one-way ticket passengers, especially men 18-40 years old. On any given flight, there maybe only a small number of such passengers. Once an 18-40 year old male with a one-way ticket is identified, the DEA may run a criminal history to see if the passenger has warrants, felonies, or a criminal record for drug offenses.
Armed with this information, DEA agents will head to the gate and try to make contact with the targeted passenger.
Was My Experience With the DEA Unique?
Sadly, no. They use the same speech with everyone. Chicago O’Hare Airport money seizure almost always begins with an encounter between DEA agents the target passenger. These encounters go something like this:
“Hi, I am agent so and so and this agent blah blah blah. We are with the DEA. Don’t worry, you are not in any trouble. Can I ask you a few questions? Where are you headed? Did you pack your own bags? Did you accept any packages from strangers? Are you aware of all the contents of your bags? Did you check any luggage? Where are you coming from and where are you going? What is the purpose of your trip? Do you have any drugs or weapons on you? Can I search your bag…”
This is the part where they find your money. Next comes the K-9.
Of course the K-9 “alerts to the presence of narcotics” even though there are no drugs in your bag (the dogs do this in every case). Next thing you know, the DEA agents seize your money.
They ask if it is yours and why you have it. Regardless of the answer, they keep the money and send you on your way. In some cases, you may be asked to come back with them to their office. However, you are not arrested, you are not charged with a crime, and you are even allowed to board your flight. That is because Chicago O’Hare Airport money seizure is about collecting cash as opposed to narrowly stopping crime.
Then you go online, search for help, and find us! Keep reading…
The Secret World of Civil Forfeiture & Chicago O’Hare Airport Money Seizure
Welcome to the secret world of Civil Forfeiture. Chicago O’Hare Airport money seizure is very common, mostly because ORD is the busiest airport in the world and processes an enormous volume of passengers.
This is a world where law enforcement uses its authority to stop people, question them, search their belongings, and take their cash. Unlike Criminal Forfeiture, these are cases where victims are never arrested or convicted of any crime.
Between 2007 and 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice deposited nearly $22 Billion Dollars into its Asset Forfeiture Fund. By comparison, this money could pay for approximately 11 of the U.S. Navy’s 14 Ohio class nuclear submarines.
Is it Legal to Take My Money?
It depends on the circumstances. First, you must understand the difference between Asset Seizure and Asset Forfeiture. Seizure occurs when the Government (or its agents) take possession of your property. On the contrary, Forfeiture occurs when the Government acquires title (ownership) of your property.
While seizure is maddening, frustrating, and confusing, it is not your real problem. Rather, Forfeiture of your property is where the real battle lies. If a Civil Forfeiture Defense Attorney successfully challenges forfeiture, the Government must return your property.
Pursuant to the Civil Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (CAFRA 2000), the U.S. Government has authority to seize and forfeit property that falls within either of two categories:
- Property used to commit crime
- Property acquired from crime
Originally, CAFRA was intended to combat the drug trade, organized crime, bookmaking, terrorism, and other crime. Where traditional law enforcement targets people and contraband, Civil Forfeiture targets money and the tools used to allegedly commit crime, such as boats, aircraft, and real estate.
To determine if seizure or forfeiture is legal in your case, we must analyze the available evidence and determine if the Government can meet its threshold – in most Chicago O’Hare Airport money seizure, the Government cannot. Instead of using direct evidence to support forfeiture, the DEA relies on circumstantial evidence and unreliable, unverifiable K-9 sniffs.
How Do I Get My Money Back?
The way a Civil Forfeiture Defense Attorney builds a defense is different. We use the law to attack the Governments claim. For instance, your case may have a number of very effective defenses, including the following:
- Illegal Search and Seizure
- Unlawful Interrogation
- Innocent Owner Defense
- Statute of Limitations
- Excessive Fines Defense
- Legitimate Source Defense
- Legitimate Use Defense
- Procedural Defense
- Notice Requirement Defense
- Color of Law Defense
Getting your money back begins with a thorough case analysis by a Civil Forfeiture Defense Attorney. We need to know everything that happened between you and the DEA at Chicago O’Hare Airport from first contact to the moment they let you leave. What was said? Did they let you leave? Where did they take you? Did you consent to a search of your bags? If so, was it right away or after they questioned you? When did the K-9 sniff your bag?
Our team of investigators, who are all former narcotics detectives with over 30 years in law enforcement, will break down your case step by step. They will also work with you to assemble all the documentation we need to assemble your claim.
Identifying the Legal Issues & Crafting a Case Theory
Once our initial investigation is complete, attorney Brian Silber will thoroughly evaluate your case to identify the key issues. Does your case involve an illegal search and seizure? Were you unlawfully questioned? Does your case involve an unreliable or unverified K-9 sniff? Do you have an Innocent Owner Defense or a Legitimate Use Defense?
The possibilities are endless.
This is where crafting a cohesive case theory, supported by the evidence, becomes so important. The case theory our Civil Forfeiture Defense Attorney, Brian Silber, puts together will carry from initial contact with Government lawyers, through settlement negotiations, and litigation/trial if necessary.
Making a Claim with DEA for a Chicago O’Hare Airport Money Seizure
A successful claim has three components. First, it must be timely. Federal law has very strict time limits for making a claim. Second, a claim must be made in the proper format, sworn to, and delivered to the proper Government office. Third, a claim must identify the issues in your case that undermine the Government’s effort to keep your money.
This third element is where a talented Civil Forfeiture Defense Attorney and investigation team makes all the difference.
For asset seizures under $500,000, the claim process begins with “Administrative Forfeiture”, which is handled in-house at the offices of the seizing agency. In the case of Chicago O’Hare Airport money seizure, the agency is almost always the DEA. The process is triggered by the seizure of your money.
Once the DEA seizes your money, it has 60 days to send you formal “Notice of Seizure” to advise you of their intention to forfeit the money and your right to file a claim or make a case for mitigation. If the 60 days passes without a notice being sent, the DEA has to return the money unless they obtain an extension of time.
However, if a notice is sent within the 60 days, you will have 35 days from the date the notice is mailed to have your claim delivered to DEA. The law says the DEA has to give you at least 35 days. If they wanted to, the DEA could give you longer, but they typically do not.
If you fail to make a timely claim, the DEA will “administratively forfeit” your money. In plain English, this means they get to keep it.
However, if you file a timely claim using the proper format, the Administrative Forfeiture process is terminated. Instead, the filing of your claim triggers “Judicial Forfeiture”.
Unlike Administrative Forfeiture that takes place in Government offices, Judicial Forfeiture takes place in court. Once you file a timely claim, the Government has 60 days to file a Civil Forfeiture action in court. As a result, your case will be transferred from the DEA (or other seizing agency) to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
At this stage, your Civil Forfeiture Defense Attorney and the assigned Assistant United States Attorney (usually a lawyer from the Asset Forfeiture Section) will communicate, discuss the case, and engage each other in settlement negotiation.
If a settlement is reached, a Civil Forfeiture action will not be filed. If settlement is not reach, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will file the lawsuit and your case will proceed to court. Once in court, a judge will preside over any motions to dismiss, motions to suppress, motions for summary judgment, or other pre-trial matters. If the case still does not settle, it will proceed to jury trial.
Ultimately, if not settled, the case will be decided by a jury verdict one way or the other.
Why Did the DEA Take My Money?
Civil Forfeiture has been a very effective tool for combating crime. There is no doubt that narcotics traffickers, organized crime, and others feel its brunt. However, the problem with Civil Forfeiture is that its power is abused by casting too broad of a net. Far too much property is seized by law enforcement from people that are not guilty of any crime.
This is exactly what happens to many travelers who fall victim to a Chicago O’Hare Airport money seizure.
To make matters worse, the Government gets away with it because most people are afraid to challenge agencies like the DEA and FBI. As a result, the Government ends up keeping money that the law otherwise requires it to return.
The ultimate reason why the DEA took your money is because it could. Chicago O’Hare Airport money seizure is common because it goes unchallenged. Innocent people who have never been in trouble before do not know the law is on their side. They do not realize the burden is on the Government to justify taking the money – not the other way around.
The Government counts on your fear. They are very liberal with taking people’s property because no one pushes back and calls them out on it.
Except for us – as a Civil Forfeiture Defense Attorney we fight back by representing people in their claims for return of their money.
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Questions? Call Us!
Have a question about Chicago O’Hare Airport money seizure? Reach out on our Contact Us page or call: 954-462-3636