8. What protections do I have if my property is seized?

If the seizing agency is a local or State police force, that agency must submit paperwork to a local District Attorney in the county where the property was taken and ask the District Attorney to file a lawsuit for the agency to keep the property permanently. This lawsuit is called a forfeiture lawsuit and is brought in the name of the State, against the property.  

Once the State files a forfeiture lawsuit, you will need to defend against the lawsuit to try to get your property back. If you choose to do nothing, your seized property will be automatically forfeited through a “default judgment.” See Question 38 and Question 39 for more information on default judgments.

If the seizing agency is a federal agency (such as the FBI, DEA, or IRS), that agency must inform you of the seizure and any next steps you can take to attempt to acquire your property.

In our example, Officer Potts will have to submit an Affidavit that says why he stopped Steve and took Steve's money.  The York County District Attorney will then review that paper work and file a forfeiture lawsuit based on Officer Potts' statements in his Affidavit. Steve will then have to defend his right to keep the $900 in court.