A federal agency charged with seizing money related to drug trafficking is poised to return over $153,000 that it took from a local convenience store owner.
In June 2014, the Internal Revenue Service seized the funds because 61-year-old Ken Quran had made a large number of cash deposits. Even though none of these transactions exceeded $10,000 – the cutoff for reporting such deposits – the underlying law allowed the IRS to seize money if it found a large volume of lesser transactions which it believes constituted a pattern of misconduct. Mr. Quran’s attorney submitted a petition for reconsideration to the IRS. Six months later, the agency responded that the matter was under review.
In October 2014, the IRS revised its policy to state that bank accounts would only be seized in this manner if agents believed there was criminal activity involved. However, that rules change is not legally binding.
The IRS dragnet is a type of forfeiture proceeding that is designed to prevent wrongdoing by removing the instruments of such activity. At the same time, these laws are like indirect criminal fines that are designed to prevent convicted offenders from profiting off their alleged wrongdoing.
In North Carolina, G.S. 90-112 is the primary drug forfeiture statute. This law allows law enforcement to seize:
- Controlled substances;
- All related money and equipment;
- Property used as a “container” for these substances (that word is interpreted to mean real property);
- All conveyances (i.e. vehicles)used in the commission of the crime; and
- Any paper or electronic records.
A 90-112 forfeiture is a post-conviction proceeding.
Procedurally, the state will often seize money and personal property during the arrest while beginning the seizure process for vehicles and real property. The judge will sign an order upon a proper showing that the defendant was convicted and that the property was connected to the offense.
The best defense to a forfeiture action is an aggressive defense in the underlying criminal case. Furthermore, in plea bargaining, almost everything is negotiable; for example, the prosecutor may agree to waive a forfeiture action in exchange for a slightly higher fine.
There are also some reliable stand-alone defenses to a forfeiture action, including:
- Innocent Owner: If there was another name on the title prior to the alleged offense, forfeiture is arguably a wrongful taking, if the other owner did not know about the supposed criminal activity.
- Probable Cause: A conviction alone is generally not enough, because the prosecutor must often connect the property directly with the offense.
- Excessive Fine: Confiscating a house over a rock of crack cocaine is arguably an excessive fine that is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.
Generally, once the defendant raises any of these defenses, the prosecutor has the burden of proof to disprove the defense.
A Strong Voice for Defendants
An arrest is only the beginning of the legal issues that stem from drug crimes. For a confidential consultation with Charlotte attorneys who fight for your rights, contact Remington & Dixon, PLLC. Convenient payment plans are available.
Brandon double-majored in Political Science and Criminal Justice at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He earned his Juris Doctor from Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Florida. Throughout his career, Brandon has received numerous awards and recognition from his peers and agencies that rate attorneys. A few of these awards are from The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyer in 2014, The National Trial Lawyers: Top 40 Under 40 in 2014, Nation’s Top One Percent: National Association of Distinguished Counsel in 2015, Super Lawyers: Rising Stars in 2018 and 2019, and North Carolina Business Magazine: Legal Elite in 2019, among others.