Due Process for Cash Civil Forfeitures in Structuring Cases

On January 22, 2013, Tarik "Terry" Dehko sat down to pay the bills for his small Michigan grocery store when a federal agent entered his office. The agent told Dehko that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had executed a seizure warrant and taken the market's entire bank account—more than $35,000. When Dehko asked how he could run his business without its bank account, the agent replied, "I don't care." The government did not charge Dehko with a crime that day. In fact, Dehko had never been charged with any crime in his life. Instead, the government waited until July 19 to bring a civil forfeiture action against Dehko—ninety-one days after Dehko filed a claim with the IRS asserting his property interest in the seized money. During that time, Dehko could not access those funds to pay his employees, rent, utility bills, or vendors. For the first time, Dehko was late on his payments.

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