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Frequently Asked Questions

Questions:

  1. Are there restrictions as to what type of property may be seized?

  2. Is there a minimum monetary amount for seized items?

  3. Can a law enforcement agency use a seized vehicle to promote law enforcement or must it be sold and the money distributed?

  4. What is the advantage to using Virginia's Forfeited Asset Sharing Program rather than the federal program?

  5. Can the costs that a law enforcement agency incurs be deducted before sending a check to DCJS?

  6. What if the cost of maintaining and storing a vehicle exceeds the profit from the sale of the vehicle?

  7. What can a law enforcement agency use the forfeited money for?

  8. Are law enforcement agencies required to hold a sheriff's auction to sell forfeited property?

  9. Does seized money have to be deposited in a bank account pending adjudication or can it be kept in the Police Department's safe?

  10. What if the seized property is perishable?

  11. Can a car be seized that was used to transport stolen property?


Answers:

  1. Are there restrictions as to what type of property may be seized?

    According to the Code of Virginia, §19.2-386.22, all money and property (i.e. vehicles, computers, cellular telephones, cameras etc.) used in connection with the manufacture, sale or distribution of an illegal narcotic can be seized by a law enforcement agency.

  2. Is there a minimum monetary amount for seized items?

    As of 8/1/2004, DCJS will process all seizures $500.00 and above. This applies to currency as well as miscellaneous items such as pagers, cell phones, electronic scales, etc. Localities may retain receipts less than $500.00. As a reminder, be sure there is a Circuit Court seizure declaration for all items that shall be forfeited, regardless of value.

  3. Can a law enforcement agency use a seized vehicle to promote law enforcement or must it be sold and the money distributed?

    The seizing agency can request an "in-kind return". This "in-kind return" means the property, a car or boat, can be used by the agency to further promote law enforcement. Use of this property reduces the cost of new purchases. If the "in-kind" property is sold within 12 months of the Court order for more than $500.00, the agency must send the money to DCJS.

  4. What is the advantage to using Virginia's Forfeited Asset Sharing Program rather than the federal program?

    There are two major advantages to using the state program instead of the federal program. First, the state's program administers seizures from no monetary value to whatever is declared forfeited. The federal minimums are: U.S. Currency--$1,000.00; Vehicles--$2,500.00; Airplanes--$5,000.00; and Real Property--$10,000.00. Second, under the Prompt Payment Act, the Commonwealth is obligated to return the locality's share of the proceeds within 30 days after DCJS receives the funds and the DCJS Form 999. The federal program has a turn around time of at least three to six months, however, most participants experience a far longer interval.

  5. Can the costs that a law enforcement agency incurs be deducted before sending a check to DCJS?

    Yes. According to the Code of Virginia, § 19.2-386.14, all expenses, fees, and costs can be deducted from the total amount sent to DCJS for disbursal. It is common practice to have the circuit court orders of forfeiture state that all costs of the proceedings be deducted from the total amount forfeited before the money is sent to DCJS.

  6. What if the cost of maintaining and storing a vehicle exceeds the profit from the sale of the vehicle?

    Under § 19.2-386.12 (B) of the Code of Virginia, if the costs exceed the profit, the local law enforcement agency can petition the Commonwealth's Criminal Fund to pay the expenses. The Criminal Fund is maintained by the Supreme Court, their number is (804) 786-6455.

  7. What can a law enforcement agency use the forfeited money for?

    Forfeited money can be used for law enforcement purposes only, and it is subject to audit. Forfeited money cannot be used to supplant existing programs or funds. The forfeited money can be used for salaries, to purchase equipment or vehicles, or any other law enforcement purpose. It cannot, however, be used to rectify agency budget shortfalls. Virginia follows the federal guidelines for use of forfeited property. Please note that the Code of Virginia designates Commonwealth's Attorney's Offices as law enforcement agencies. To see the guidelines for the use of forfeited money, click here.

  8. Are law enforcement agencies required to hold a sheriff's auction to sell forfeited property?

    According to §19.2-386.12 of the Code of Virginia, "any sale of forfeited property shall be made for cash, after due advertisement. The sale shall be by public sale or other commercially feasible means…" Therefore, a sheriff's auction is not the only way to sell forfeited property, but the sale of the property must be advertised and open to the public. Many small law enforcement agencies use the "seal bid" process. They advertise the property and individuals make bids by placing their bid in a sealed envelope and depositing it in the place specified by the advertisement. Larger localities, however, do hold sheriff's auctions.

  9. Does seized money have to be deposited in a bank account pending adjudication or can it be kept in the Police Department's safe?

    Seized money can be deposited into a bank account, but it does not have to be. Many localities keep the seized money in a safe and use it as evidence in the criminal trial as well as the civil forfeiture trial. Once this money is forfeited, it should be taken to the bank and converted into a cashier's check made out to the Treasurer of Virginia and then sent to DCJS with the DCJS Form 999 and court order.

    If the seized money is deposited into a bank account, it can be an interest bearing account and the interest is also subject to forfeiture. In this case, the check sent to DCJS should be for the amount forfeited plus the interest.

  10. What if the seized property is perishable?

    According to § 19.2-386.7 of the Code of Virginia, "if the property seized is perishable or liable to deterioration, decay, or injury by being detained in custody pending the proceedings, the circuit court for the county or city in which the information is filed or in which the property is located, may order the same to be sold upon such notice as the court, in its discretion, may deem proper and hold the proceeds of sale pending the final disposition of such proceedings." An example of a perishable item would be a warehouse full of tobacco. Because the tobacco would perish if kept after a certain period of time, it could be sold and the proceeds kept until the court's final adjudication.

  11. Can a car be seized that was used to transport stolen property?

    Yes. According to § 19.2-386.16 of the Code of Virginia, vehicles used in the transportation of stolen goods are subject to forfeiture. Also, any vehicle knowingly used by the owner or used by another with the owner's knowledge of and during the commission of, or in attempt to commit a second or subsequent offense of:

    18.2-346 Being a prostitute or prostitution
    18.2-347 Keeping or residing in or frequenting a bawdy place
    18.2-348 Aiding prostitution or illicit sexual intercourse
    18.2-349 Using a vehicle to promote prostitution or unlawful sexual intercourse
    18.2-355 Taking, detaining, etc., person for prostitution, etc., or consenting thereto
    18.2-356 Receiving money for procuring person
    18.2-357 Receiving money from earnings of a male or female prostitute


    Also subject to forfeiture:

    4.1-339 Any vehicle transporting greater than one quart of an alcoholic beverage
    46.2-867 Vehicles used in racing in prearranged, organized, and speed competitions
    19.2-386.15 Seizure of property used in connection with or derived from terrorism
    19.2-386.17 Forfeiture for computer crimes
    19.2-386.18 Forfeiture of unlawful electronic communication devices
    19.2-386.19 Seizure of property used in connection with money laundering
    19.2-386.20 Forfeiture of cigarettes sold or attempted to be sold in an unlawful delivery sale
    19.2-386.21 Forfeiture of counterfeit cigarettes
    19.2-386.26 Seizure and forfeiture of drug paraphernalia
    19.2-386.27 Forfeiture of firearms carried in violation of 18.2-308
    19.2-386.28 Forfeiture of weapons that are concealed, possessed, transported or carried in violation of law
    19.2-386.29 Forfeiture of certain weapons used in commission of criminal offense
    19.2-386.30 Forfeiture of money, gambling devices, etc., seized from illegal gambling enterprise; innocent owners or lienors
    19.2-386.31 Seizure and forfeiture or property used in connection with production of sexually explicit items involving children


    Property seized as a result of the above offenses is not reported to DCJS. DCJS only handles forfeiture of property governed by §18.2-249, drug-related offenses.

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