Airport Seizures Related to Asset Forfeiture

Lawyers in Seattle Representing the Criminally Accused

Airport seizures related to asset forfeiture, including bulk cash seizures, may occur at Sea-Tac or other airports in Washington. These seizures may occur because the government believes the assets were subject to seizure under the Uniformed Controlled Substances Act in Washington or the federal Controlled Substances Act. If you believe an airport seizure related to asset forfeiture was improper, you should consult the seasoned Seattle civil forfeiture attorneys of Blair & Kim.

Airport Seizures Related to Asset Forfeiture

Government agencies are empowered to seize things that were used to commit a crime. They can also seize illegal contraband and tools used to perpetrate a crime. The rules that govern an airport seizure related to asset forfeiture depend on who seized the assets. If assets are seized by a state agency at the airport, state law will apply, but if a federal agency seizes the assets, federal law applies. At Sea-tac Airport, the primary law enforcement agency that may seize your assets is the Port of Seattle Police Department.

In Washington, any money that is meant to be paid or paid in fact as part of a transaction for an illegal drug or that can be traced to a transaction that contravenes the Uniform Controlled Substances Act can be seized and forfeited under RCW 69.50.505(1)(g). In other words, airport seizures related to asset forfeiture can occur if a law enforcement officer has probable cause to think your assets or money were utilized or meant to be used for drug trafficking. The agency must notify you that it plans to seek forfeiture of assets as set forth in RCW 69.50.505(3).

Additionally, your assets may be seized at the airport and forfeited under RCW 10.105.010 if it was used as an instrumentality to commit a felony for which you were convicted in superior court, it was used to aid or abet a felony for which you were convicted in superior court, or if it was compensation for committing a felony for which you were convicted in superior court.

State Civil Forfeiture Hearing for Assets Related to Drug Crimes

Assuming the seizure was drug-related, you can ask for a civil forfeiture hearing under RCW 69.50.505. You’ll need to make this request within 45 days of the agency telling you of the intended forfeiture, so it’s important to consult an attorney right away. At a civil forfeiture hearing, the law enforcement agency has the burden of proof to show it is more likely than not that the property is subject to forfeiture. It will need to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the seized money was paid or meant to be paid in a transaction for an illegal drug or can be traced to a transaction that violates of the Washington Uniform Controlled Substances Act.

A lawyer may be able to argue that the officer who seized the assets or money didn’t have probable cause to do so. Probable cause refers to the existence of reasonable grounds for suspicion, supported by circumstances strong enough to warrant someone of reasonable caution to believe assets were used or meant to be used to violate the Washington Uniform Controlled Substances Act. The court will look at probable cause from the perspective of the collective knowledge of the officers who were working at the time of the seizure and keeping in mind the officers’ experience and expertise. The way money is packaged or carried can contribute to probable cause that there is drug-related activity. Lying about money related to a drug crime can also be a factor in whether there is probable cause to think the money is drug-related.

Federal Law

If your property is seized by federal agents, such as those from the Drug Enforcement Agency, Homeland Security Investigations, or Customs and Border Protection, under a federal statute, the asset may be subject to forfeiture. Civil asset forfeiture is governed by 18 U.S.C. § 983, and rules are also found in Rule G(2) of the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions, as well as a few other code sections and rules. You can have your assets seized by federal agents at the airport in connection with a crime. Additionally, you can also have your assets seized by Customs and Border Protection if you fail to report that you’re traveling with an amount over $10,000.

Under 21 U.S.C. § 88l(a)(6), money may be seized under federal law if probable cause exists to show it was involved in drug trafficking or in contravention of the Controlled Substances Act. Some of the other items of property that may be taken under this code section include drugs, raw materials for drugs, books used or intended to be used to make drugs, conveyances used to transport drugs, and drug paraphernalia. Any property taken under this code section is considered in the custody of the Attorney General and subject only to court orders or an official with jurisdiction. The Attorney General can put the property under seal, remove it to a place he’s designated, or mandate that the General Services Administration take custody of the property and remove it, if possible, to an appropriate location for disposition in accord with the law.

Consult a Knowledgeable Lawyer in Seattle

If you believe you were subject to a Seattle airport seizure related to asset forfeiture that was improper, it’s important to discuss your circumstances with a seasoned attorney. The lawyers at our firm may be able to ask for a hearing and fight for your right to recover your property. Call us at (206) 622-6562 or contact us through our online form.

Client Reviews
Mark C. Blair has no rival in his field in Seattle. A consummate professional. Communication was brief, straightforward, easy to understand, and without a typical condescending tone you can sometimes experience from attorneys on top of their field. Correspondence was timely and always affective. Any in need of criminal defense, should have a conversation with Mr. Blair, and you will quickly see and feel, no further contacts, referrals, or phone calls need be made. The money and time that can be saved by streamlining future contact and collateral damage in the sentencing process will far and away be worth every penny of the fee structure. Thank you very very much Mark Blair. N.Mark French
Sara Kim of BlairKim is a great attorney. I had never before had representation or dealt with the legal system and she made it very easy for me. She converted the legalese into laymans terms for me and helped me to understand the steps of the process. When I hesitated on certain decisions, Sara gave me the confidence and encouragement to proceed – especially since it was most beneficial to me in the long run. Sara is very straightforward and professional while also being personable and pleasant to deal with. Tamara
Sara Kim was the perfect lawyer for our situation. We were determined not to involve the courts in our divorce. Within the first 30 minutes of consultation, Sara proposed an equitable formula for division of property which we used to negotiate an agreement that felt fair to both of us. Our flat fee arrangement with Sara covered the filing of paperwork which alleviated much pressure for us during a very stressful time. I highly recommend Sara for her flexibility, professionalism, and efficiency. Carrie