Attorney General's Guidelines on Seized and Forfeited Property

Federal Retention and Use of Forfeited Property

IV. Federal Retention and Use of Forfeited Property

A. General Authorization

The Attorney General has the authority to retain any civilly or criminally forfeited property for official use by any federal agency. No seized property shall be placed into official use until a final determination of forfeiture has been made and the request to place the property into official use has been approved by the appropriate official.

B. Real Property

The Attorney General does not delegate his authority to place real property into official use. A department component may request authority to place real property into official use only if the proposed usage of that property would be and remain thereafter consistent with a law enforcement purpose. Transfers of real property to other federal components may be considered, if such transfers will serve a significant and continuing federal purpose.

C. Cash

No forfeited cash, nor any proceeds from the sale of forfeited property, may be transferred to or retained by any federal agency except as provided for in Chapter X or by statute.

D. Personal Property

The Attorney General delegates his authority to place personal property into official use in the order of priority set forth below. Written notice to the Director, Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture is required at the time property valued at $50,000 or greater is placed into official use. The Director, Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture, shall determine which agency may place property into official use if more than one Department component seeks to retain the same forfeited property for official use. All property should be promptly turned over to the local U.S. marshal after seizure, including property intended to be placed into official use, unless it is intended that such property will be used in an undercover capacity.

1. Seizing Investigative Bureau

The head of the seizing investigative bureau will determine whether to place forfeited property into official use.

2. Other Investigative Bureaus

If the property is not equitably transferred to a foreign, state or local agency, and the seizing investigative bureau chooses not to place the forfeited property into official use, then another investigative bureau or the U.S. Marshals Service may, by written request to the Director, U.S. Marshals Service, seek the transfer of the property for its use.

3. Other Department Components

If no investigative bureau chooses to place the property into official use and the property has not been equitably transferred, other Department components may, by written request to the Director, U.S. Marshals Service, seek the transfer of the forfeited property for its official use.

4. Transfer of Forfeited Property to Other Federal Agencies

All requests by other federal agencies shall be referred to the Director, U.S. Marshals Service. In exceptional circumstances, the U.S. Marshals Service may transfer personal property suitable for official use to a requesting federal agency which did not participate in the acts which led to a seizure or forfeiture.

In all such cases, the U.S. Marshals Service shall consult with the investigative bureau responsible for the investigation which led to the forfeiture. Careful consideration shall be given to the value of the property requested, its potential benefit to the United States for law enforcement purposes and its impact on the Fund.

A decision to grant a request for personal property with an aggregate value of less than $25,000 shall be approved in writing by the Director, U.S. Marshals Service. The recipient agency shall pay expenses incurred by the Department of Justice in connection with the forfeiture and transfer of such property. A report on all such transfers shall be prepared by the U.S. Marshals Service on quarterly basis and submitted to the Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture.

A decision to grant a request for any property valued at $25,000 or more shall be approved in writing by the Director, Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture. The recipient agency shall pay expenses incurred by the Department of Justice in connection with the forfeiture and transfer of such property.

E. Investigative Bureau and Department Component Official Use Policies

Each investigative bureau and department component shall promulgate internal guidelines consistent with these Guidelines governing the placement of property into official use. Such guidelines and any subsequent supplements or revisions shall be filed with the Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture ten (10) days in advance of issuance.

All official use guidelines shall:

  1. Prohibit the placement into official use of any seized property prior to the entry of a final determination of forfeiture and the appropriate approval of the request to place the property into official use;
  2. Require that all seized property be recorded and tracked in an official inventory of seized property without regard to its intended disposition;
  3. Require that a written justification be prepared in each instance detailing the reasons why the forfeited property was placed into official use and that these justifications be retained for three (3) years;
  4. Require that a specific supervisory-level official be responsible and accountable for the decision to place each item of forfeited property into official use and for ensuring appropriate official use of such property following its transfer;
  5. Require that property placed into official shall be identified and tracked in an accountable property system; and
  6. State that the property may not be transferred or retained if it is primarily for purposes of trade or sale, or home-to-work transportation or other uses not expressly authorized for property acquired through the expenditure of appropriated funds. There must be an intention to place the property into official use for two (2) years.

F. Competing Requests for Property for Official Use by Investigative Bureau and Other Federal, State or Local Agency

When the head of an investigative bureau seeks to place forfeited property into official use and a federal, state or local agency has filed a request for an equitable share of that property, the head of the investigative bureau shall consider the following factors in making a determination regarding the disposition of the property:

  1. The relative need of the requesting agency and the investigative bureau for the particular property;
  2. The uniqueness of the property and the likelihood of securing similar property through seizures in the near future;
  3. The relative percentage of the requesting agency's participation in the cases in addition to the other factors pertinent to the determination of equitable transfer;
  4. The likelihood that the requesting agency will be eligible for an equitable share of property from additional seizures arising from the same investigation or from seizures in other cases in the near future;
  5. The impact that a decision to place the property into official use might have on federal, state and local relations in the district; and
  6. The number and value of past equitable transfers to the federal, state or local agency.

G. Payment of Liens on Personal Property Placed Into Federal Official Use

Liens on personal property placed into official use by investigative bureaus and the U.S. Marshals Service may be paid from the Fund provided that:

  1. There is an intent to place the property into official use for at least two (2) years;
  2. The total amount to be paid from the Fund amounts to less than one-third the appraised value of the property; and
  3. The total amount to be paid from the Fund is less than $25,000.

Requests for exceptions may be submitted in writing to the Director, Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture.