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How do I get my money back from the DEA?

Berkeley, CA |

I was arrested for driving on a suspended liscense (california). Since I am on probation for drugs, the CHP searched my person and car. They also raided my house. No drugs or anything illegal was found. The only thing on me was $8,300 cash, which was confiscated from me. I was never charged with ANY drug charges.
I was released from jail with my traffic charge dropped a few days later. However, my money was still being held for "drugs." I tried to get it back from the DA first, but they gave it to the DEA.
Then I filed both a petition for mitigation and and a claim to the DEA to get my money back. Now they served my girlfriend with the papers, who wasn't even there. They are really not trying to give me my money. Is there a better way to go about this?

Attorney Answers 4


You need to contact an attorney with experience in federal asset forfeiture matters right away. Many such lawyers probably feel that a Petition for Remission or Mitigation is a mistake that unnecessarily sacrifices your rights. Specifically, there are no hearings on those petitions, they are decided by the executive branch (that is, the same people who want to take your money) and are rarely granted; and your rights to appeal those decisions are practically non-existent.

The better way to go about this was to hire a lawyer before you started it on your own. You should probably consult with one now to give you an opinion and to determine whether there is anything that can be done. Because the timelines in asset forfeiture are so short, you should find someone local and experienced immediately. You should also talk to the lawyer about your girlfriend's claim, if any, before she files anything.

No attorney-client relationship is established between this lawyer and the originator of the question. This answer is provided for informational purposes only and is provided purely to assist the questioner in determining whether to consult with an attorney to obtain legal advice specific to their matter.

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Yes hire an attorney that handles asset forfeitures. Do not try to do this on your own.
Robert Driessen

Mr. Driessen is a former Deputy DA in Orange County with over 8 years of criminal law experience. Nothing stated on this site shall in anyway be construed as legal advice, or as creating any attorney client relationship. If you would like to hire Mr. Driessen, feel free to contact him at

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I think this has gotten beyond your ability to handle it on your own. If you would like to chat with me about it, you can contact me at (415) 865-0920 during regular business hours. Gayle Gutekunst, Attorney.

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The money was seized pursuant to narcotics forfeiture laws and the government does not want to return it. A claim needs to be filed immediately to protect the right to contest the forfeiture of the money. Who should file the claim is dependent on factors that are outside the purview of this answer, but certainly if the money was on you, you could and probably should file a claim. But you should not do anything without the help of an attorney. These cases are quasi-civil with serious criminal ramifications if you are not careful, and the civil process a difficult one to manage without an attorney. I have handled forfeitures for twenty years. Feel free to contact me to schedule an appointment. (415) 206-0600.

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