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Forfeiture of Funds

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Jose Troconis-Escovar v. United States of America

Case No.: 22-1715

Officials: Ripple, Rovner, and Wood, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Forfeiture of Funds

Suspecting that Troconis-Escovar was involved in the illegal drug business, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) decided to search his vehicle. There they found $146,000 in cash—funds that they believed represented proceeds from that business. The agency accordingly notified Troconis-Escovar that it intended to effect an administrative forfeiture of the funds (i.e., to declare them to be government property). In response to that notification, Troconis-Escovar’s attorney tried to contest the forfeiture, but he filed the wrong piece of paper with the agency—a “petition for remission” rather than a “claim.” Only a claim may be used to challenge a proposed forfeiture, and with no claim filed, Troconis-Escovar eventually lost his money. He is trying to get it back through this lawsuit. The district court, however, found that it lacked jurisdiction to set aside the declaration of forfeiture, and so it dismissed the case. Dismissal was correct, but not because jurisdiction was lacking. Troconis-Escovar does not explain why he should be able to obtain relief outside section 983 when Congress expressly conditioned relief from civil forfeiture on circumstances that do not apply to him. Instead, the case fails on the merits, and the Seventh Circuit modifies the judgment to show that it is with prejudice.


Decided 02/01/23

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