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What happens when the government seizes property?

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Quick Answer

When law enforcement seizes property, the person whose property was seized may file an administrative action proving ownership. If the person can prove he owns the seized property, he often gets it back, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. When law enforcement agencies seize property and the owner cannot prove ownership, the property is sometimes sold at auctions or held as evidence.

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Full Answer

In federal cases, a federal law enforcement agency will notify a person of its intent to seize property. This notice is in letter form and outlines a person's rights in the case. Typically, the person whose property is confiscated will need to file an administrative claim to get the property back, but only if he is the legal owner of the property.

Property may be seized by a law enforcement agency in both criminal and civil cases, according to the FBI. Criminal property seizure is known as "in personam," or against a person. Property seized in a civil matter is called "in rem," or action taken against property.

The FBI may seize property based on probable cause and the burden of proof must satisfy both constitutional and statutory laws. The order to seize property must come from a court and everything from money to houses is confiscated by law enforcement each year. There are several auctions that take place to sell confiscated property that cannot be claimed by the owner.

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