Help with NYPD Seizures and Forfeitures

Part of being a criminal defense attorney in New York requires understanding how to get seized property back and protecting the client through the entire process. 

NYPD unfairly profits from seizing property by using a complicated bureaucratic process with strict deadlines. An attorney can help you level the playing field so that you have the best chance of getting the seized property back quickly.

Deciding the best way to get the property back depends on which of the following five (5) reasons NYPD used to seize the property including:

  • for forfeiture because the police believe the property was used or obtained in the course of criminal activity ("forfeiture hold");
  • as contraband because the property was illegal to possess;
  • as arrest evidence because the police believe the property is "evidence" related to an ongoing criminal prosecution;
  • for investigatory evidence because the police believe they need the property to investigate other criminal activities; or
  • for safekeeping.

If the property was seized for forfeiture, your attorney can help you demand a Post Seizure Retention Hearing which is often the best way to get the property back quickly. 

Your attorney can give you advice on which forms are needed including the "District Attorney Release Form" or the "Request for Supervisor Review of Property Release Deferral” pursuant to 38 RCNY §12-34(e).

Attorney Fighting NYPD Seizures for Forfeiture

Attorney Rochelle Berlinger is experienced in contesting forfeiture actions by NYPD. To get your property back quickly, you often need the help of an experienced lawyer who can protect your rights at every stage of the process.

An attorney can help you get back the property after a seizure by the NYPD in Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island. When appropriate, attorney Rochelle Berliner helps her clients make a “Formal Demand” for the property at the Property Clerk’s office in the borough where the arrest occurred.

If the property has a "forfeiture hold," then Ms. Berliner can often get the hold lifted through negotiations with NYPD, through an administrative hearing, or through court action. Ms. Berliner also represents an innocent owner who owes the seized property but did not know it was being used for criminal activity.

If you need an attorney to get back property seized for forfeiture by NYPD, then call attorney Rochelle Berliner today at (718) 261-5600.

Claims Involving NYPD's Civil Enforcement Unit (CEU)

Many forfeiture claims are managed by the NYPD's Civil Enforcement Unit. CEU is located on the fifth floor of Two Lafayette Street in New York, NY. The CEU brings forfeiture actions for property seized by the NYPD if that property was allegedly used to facilitate a crime or constitutes the proceeds of a crime.

The property seized by NYPD for forfeiture might include:

  • U.S. Currency (cash or money);
  • Cell phones;
  • Gold or jewelry;
  • Guns, firearms or other weapons;
  • Tools of an alleged "chop-shop operator";
  • Vehicles allegedly used during crimes for:
    • transporting illegal firearms or controlled substances;
    • drag racing on public streets; or
    • driving under the influence.
  • Boat or water vessels used during crimes; or
  • Aircrafts used during crimes.

Much needed attention has been brought recently to unfair tactics used during NYPD activities including "Stop, Question, and Frisk." Few people realize how unfair seizures and forfeiture actions have become until it happens to them. NYPD relies on people not hiring an attorney and not exercising their rights. 

How NYPD Generates Revenue From Seizing Property

According to Administrative Code 14-169, Report for Calendar Year 2019, NYPD disclosed receiving:

  • $7,469,807.00 of U.S. currency through disbursement from the Department of Justice pursuant to federal forfeiture laws;
  • $2,618,871.00 of U.S. currency through disbursement from the District Attorney pursuant to state forfeiture laws;
  • $636,646.16 by vendor for the liquidation of retained property, other than registered motor vehicles and U.S. currency; and
  • $1,485,629.00 from the liquidation of 7,575 vehicles by vendor Insurance Auto Auction. 

Amazingly, NYPD received $0 in 2019 from any judgment in a civil forfeiture proceeding. Likewise, NYPD generated $0 for after any dismissal, judgment, or settlement in a civil forfeiture proceeding pursuant to section 14- 140. In 2019, NYPD only generated $3,616.42 after a settlement agreement entered into between the NYPD and any claimant for property.

NYPD has taken a hide the ball approach by claiming its "Property and Evidence Tracking System (PETS)" does not have the capacity to generate more helpful reports. For this reason, NYPD is claiming it has no good way of explaining how much cash they seize either as evidence or through civil forfeiture proceedings.

The most recently released documents show that in approximately 85% of NYPD’s forfeiture cases, no one is charged with any crime related to the seizure.

Krimstock Hearing for a Vehicle Seizure

If the NYPD claims that the vehicle was used as an instrument of a crime, then it can impound the vehicle before seeking permanent ownership through a civil forfeiture action. Attorney Rochelle Berliner can help you demand a "Post Seizure Retention Hearing" so that you can get your vehicle back while any forfeiture action is pending.

At the time of the arrest, the person arrested is given a "NYPD Vehicle Seizure Form." A second form is mailed to the owner of the vehicle within five (5) days of the arrest. 

If you received a "Vehicle Seizure" form from the NYPD after your vehicle was seized, then seek out the services of an experienced attorney to get the vehicle back by demanding the so-called "Krimstock hearing."

Act quickly because you have a right to a hearing within 10 business days from when the vehicle was seized by NYPD. In New York, the Krimstock hearing is an administrative law proceeding which is different from the underlying criminal case. During the Krimstock hearing your attorney can help you recover possession of a vehicle confiscated by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) during an arrest.

In New York City, the hearings to get a seized vehicle back take place at the Office of Administrative Trial and Hearings (OATH) located at 40 Rector Street in Manhattan. At the administrative Krimstock hearing, NYPD has the burden to show all of the following: 

  • NYPD followed each of its required procedures in making a lawful arrest of the person and lawfully seizing the vehicle
  • NYPD has enough evidence to be likely to win the civil forfeiture action at trial
  • returning the vehicle would cause a danger to the public

If NYPD fails to make each of those showings, then the vehicle must be returned to the rightful owner pending the outcome of any civil forfeiture action.

The Krimstock hearing takes place in a room set up like a courtroom at the Office of Administrative Trial and Hearings (OATH). The vehicle owner and an officer with NYPD might be called as a witness and allowed to present evidence. In some cases, NYPD will attempt to present a police report without calling the officer to testify in person. 

If you have pending criminal charges, an attorney can help you at the hearing so that you do not make any statement that might be used against you in the criminal case. Hiring an attorney is often the best way to get the vehicle back quickly.

New York's Nuisance Abatement Law

The CEU also pursues closing orders under New York's Nuisance Abatement Law to discourage crimes including:

  • illegal gambling activity;
  • illegal sale of alcoholic beverages;
  • illegal sale of weapons;
  • prostitution;
  • sale and/or possession of counterfeit merchandise;
  • sale and/or possession of drug paraphernalia;
  • sale and/or possession of stolen property;
  • unlicensed vehicle dismantling; or
  • unlicensed security at bars and clubs.

If you are facing action by the Civil Enforcement Unit of the NYPD, then contact an experienced attorney who can aggressively protect your rights.

Additional Resources

NYPD's procedures for Release of Property - Visit the website for the City of New York's Finest to learn more about NYPD's procedures to get back your property (other than a vehicle) after a seizure for forfeiture. Learn more about the importance of keeping a copy of the property voucher, make a demand and verified claim for the property, presenting the supervising district attorney's statement refusing to grant a release or the District Attorney's Release form, and getting other relief from the Property Clerk Division's Borough Property Office in Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens or Staten Island.

Queens DA Property Release Unit - Visit the website of the Queens District Attorney's Office to learn how to get your property released. Find information on how to complete the formal property release demand form for the release of arrest evidence or obtain other relief from the Property Release Services Unit in Queens, NY. After the formal demand is made, the Queens District Attorney's Office only has fifteen (15) days to evaluate the request for release of arrest evidence before issuing a response. When the property taken is a vehicle, the Queens District Attorney's Office only has seven (7) days to evaluate the request for release of arrest evidence before issuing a response. If the property release demand was deferred, an attorney can help you appeal that decision pursuant to 38 RCNY §12-34(e) by requesting that a supervising Assistant District Attorney review this deferment determination. The form for requesting "Supervisor Review of Property Release Deferral” can be submitted electronically.

Seizures of U.S. Currency at New York's Airports - What happens if your cash, money, or U.S. currency is seized by a federal agent at the airport? Attorney Rochelle Berliner is familiar with the best ways to fight civil asset forfeiture actions at New York's busiest airports including money seizures at John F. Kennedy JFK International Airport and cash seizures at LaGuardia International Airport (LGA). Money is taken for forfeiture on domestic flights with probable cause of drug trafficking or money laundering or before international flights for failure to disclose having more than $10,000 on the FinCEN 105 Form.

 This article was last updated on Friday, October 9, 2020.