3. Who can seize property?

Local and State law enforcement can seize property, as well as federal law enforcement like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), or Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Usually, however, the seizing party will be a member of a local or State police force.

The federal government gets more time to file forfeiture cases than the State does (up to 60 days), and the federal government can hold administrative proceedings instead of, or in addition to, judicial proceedings. Oftentimes, federal and State agencies will work together on a forfeiture case through a joint investigation, known as "equitable sharing." With equitable sharing, local officials are allowed to keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds of the sale of property.

In our example, Officer Potts is a York County, Texas police officer who is allowed to seize Steve's property as long as he has "probable cause." Officer Potts will say he had "probable cause" to seize the $900 because he smelled marijuana and thought the money was from Steve selling drugs.