Federal law allows law enforcement officers to take and hold property to either preserve it so that it could be forfeited to the government or returned to the owner after a case is litigated. Forfeiture of property is an equitable remedy as well as a punishment. The government is allowed to take property from people, including money, who used illegal means to obtain the property and remit it to the government for sale or destruction at a later time.

Federal authorities use a variety of methods to seize property, and obtaining an in rem arrest warrant is one of those methods. An in rem arrest warrant grants authority upon a federal agency to take the property specified in the warrant. In rem jurisdiction is used frequently in Florida federal courts when the real estate or other property in question lies within the state of Florida. The federal authorities have the legal right to seize the property authorized by the in rem arrest warrant. Federal law enforcement authorities such as the FBI, ICE, DEA, or Homeland Security, among several others, have the ability to seize property if a judge grants an in rem arrest warrant.

In rem arrest warrants differ slightly from search warrants. Search warrants allow the authorities to seize evidence of a crime. The property subject to an in rem arrest warrant is not necessarily used in a crime but could be connected to a crime. The process is referred to as “civil asset forfeiture.” The in rem arrest warrant procedure allows federal agents to take and hold property, typically real property but may also be autos, boats, trailers, RVs, ATVs, and jet skis, and preserve it while the criminal trial is litigated. The property could become a component of criminal forfeiture proceedings in the future if any statute relevant to the case allows. Furthermore, certain federal laws impose a restraining order on the subject property, thereby rendering the use of an in rem arrest warrant unnecessary or is the subject of an order issued by a judge in a criminal case.

How Does a federal court in Florida issue an In Rem Arrest Warrant?

The procedure federal authorities could use to obtain an in rem arrest warrant will vary depending upon who holds the property in question. If the government already seized the property by authority of a search warrant for instance, then there is no need for another magistrate to find probable cause to seize the asset because a magistrate already found probable cause to issue the search warrant.

If the property was not taken lawfully by the government, or could not lawfully be taken by the authorities, then the governmental officers must apply for an in rem arrest warrant. The warrant may only issue an in rem arrest warrant upon a finding of probable cause based facts contained in an affidavit or a verified complaint. This procedure is memorialized in Local Admiralty Rule 7.03.

When or if a court finds probable cause to issue an in rem arrest warrant, then the clerk of the court must give the warrant to an authorized entity to execute, or serve. Most frequently, the United States Marshall’s Service will serve the in rem arrest warrant. One of the main functions of the United States Marshall’s Service is to serve in rem arrest warrant. The United States Marshall’s Service coordinates securing the property and serving the warrant with the agency investigating the criminal case linked to the in rem arrest warrant.

How Does a Federal Court Acquire Jurisdiction Over Property?

A federal court does not automatically have jurisdiction over a piece of property. The property is not subject to the jurisdiction of the federal court until the court issues an in rem warrant, and the proper authorities attach or seize the property.

What Happens After an In Rem Arrest Warrant is Issued?

Once the Marshall’s Service takes possession of the property according to an in rem arrest warrant, then the government takes possession of the property and not the court. The property could become the subject of a criminal forfeiture hearing at a later date.

The person who owns the property taken by the authority granted by an in rem arrest warrant has a right to object to the forfeiture of the property. The person objecting to the seizure and forfeiture of the property after the court authorizes an in rem arrest warrant has 90 days to file a written objection. Failing that, the court will order that the property taken by the government with authority granted by an in rem arrest warrant shall be forfeited to the government. The government could dispose of the property, which is usually done by sale.

The government must decide on how to dispose of the property of a person objects within the 90-day window. The government could return the property to the objector, start a civil forfeiture case, or seize the property as part of the criminal case if authorized by statute.

What Can a Lawyer Do for Me if My Property Was Taken by the Government Pursuant to an In Rem Arrest Warrant?

Having an attorney fight on your side is necessary any time the government, especially the U.S. government, is involved. If you are charged with a federal crime or are under suspicion of committing a crime, then do not speak with authorities. Having an attorney fighting to protect your interests will prevent the government’s agents from twisting words, taking statements out of context, or intentionally distorting what you say. The “feds” are also notorious for arresting and charging people with misleading and obstruction of justice if two statements made by the same person differ at all. Retaining counsel to protect your interests in your liberty and your property is your safest bet.

Additionally, a seasoned in rem arrest lawyer in Florida can fight the federal authorities to win your property back or negotiate the return of some, if not all, of the property seized by an in rem arrest warrant.

Musca Law: Protecting Your Rights

Call Musca Law immediately if federal authorities have seized your property. You could be in great danger of losing your liberty as well. Contact Musca Law’s in rem arrest warrant lawyers today at (888)-484-5057.