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Rule

Civil Asset Forfeiture

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Customs Service, Department of the Treasury.

ACTION:

Interim rule; solicitation of comments.

SUMMARY:

This document amends the Customs Regulations, on an interim basis, in order to implement the provisions of the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (CAFRA), insofar as these provisions are applicable to laws enforced by Customs. The CAFRA creates general rules governing civil forfeiture proceedings. However, CAFRA specifically exempts from certain of its requirements forfeitures that are made under a number of statutes, among these being: The Tariff Act of 1930 or any other provision of law codified in title 19, United States Code; the Internal Revenue Code of 1986; the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act; and the Trading with the Enemy Act. In addition, the interim rule makes minor conforming changes to the Customs Regulations in order to reflect a recodification of existing statutory law.

DATES:

Interim rule is effective August 23, 2000, and applies to any forfeiture proceeding commenced on or after August 23, 2000. Comments must be received on or before February 12, 2001.

ADDRESSES:

Written comments may be addressed to and inspected at the Regulations Branch, Office of Regulations and Rulings, U.S. Customs Service, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., 3rd Floor, Washington, DC 20229.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Jeremy Baskin, Penalties Branch (202-927-2344).

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

Section 2 of the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (“CAFRA”), Pub. L. 106-185, 114 Stat. 202, enacted on April 25, 2000, and codified at title 18, United States Code, section 983 (18 U.S.C. 983), creates general rules for civil forfeiture proceedings. This section of the CAFRA, however, specifically exempts from certain of its requirements forfeitures undertaken pursuant to the following statutes: The Tariff Act of 1930 or any other provision of law codified in title Start Printed Page 7809119, United States Code; the Internal Revenue Code of 1986; the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 301 et seq.); the Trading with the Enemy Act (50 U.S.C. App. 1 et seq.); and section 1 of title VI of the Act of June 15, 1917 (40 Stat. 233; 22 U.S.C. 401).

Under section 2 of the CAFRA, specified duties and obligations are placed upon Government officials to be designated by seizing agencies. To clarify and implement the law in this regard, the interim rule identifies the particular Customs official who will grant extensions of time for sending notices of seizure, as authorized by 18 U.S.C. 983(a)(1)(B), and it identifies those Customs officials who will rule on requests for immediate release of seized property, as authorized by 18 U.S.C. 983(f)(2). The interim regulations also provide clear guidance to Customs officials in the processing of property seized for forfeiture under the CAFRA.

To address these matters, the interim rule adds a new subpart H to part 162 of the Customs Regulations (19 CFR part 162, subpart H).

Furthermore, the interim regulations make clear that acceptance of an administrative forfeiture remission does not make the government liable for fees, costs or interest pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2465. In this respect, a new § 171.24 is added to the Customs Regulations (19 CFR 171.24) to provide that, in the case of any seizure for forfeiture that is remitted or mitigated under 19 U.S.C. 1618 or 31 U.S.C. 5321, the person who accepts such a remission or mitigation decision will not be considered to have substantially prevailed in a civil forfeiture proceeding for purposes of being able to collect any fees, costs or interest from the Government.

With the exception of the amendment providing for a new § 171.24, seizures exempt from the requirements of section 2 of the CAFRA will be processed in accordance with existing regulations.

Lastly, Pub. L. 103-272, 108 Stat. 745, dated July 5, 1994, reenacted and recodified the provisions of title 49, United States Code. To this end, the interim rule removes the reference to “49 U.S.C. App.” appearing in part 171, subpart F, of the Customs Regulations (19 CFR part 171, subpart F), and adds in its place a reference to “49 U.S.C. 80303”, in accordance with the recodification of the statutory provision specifically made by section 1(e) of Public Law 103-272.

Comments

Before adopting these interim regulations as a final rule, consideration will be given to any written comments that are timely submitted to Customs. Customs specifically requests comments on the clarity of this interim rule and how it may be made easier to understand. Comments submitted will be available for inspection in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552), § 1.4, Treasury Department Regulations (31 CFR 1.4) and § 103.11(b), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 103.11(b)), on regular business days between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at the Regulations Branch, U.S. Customs Service, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., 3rd Floor, Washington, D.C.

Inapplicability of Notice and Delayed Effective Date Requirements, the Regulatory Flexibility Act and Executive Order 12866

The interim regulations do not impose any additional requirements upon the public. Rather, these regulations are intended both to confer certain additional rights on property owners or interested parties, and to provide clear guidance to Customs officials in the processing of property seized for forfeiture under the CAFRA. Accordingly, it has been determined that notice and public comment procedures are inapplicable and unnecessary in this case pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B), and pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(1) and (d)(3), a delayed effective date is not required. Because this document is not subject to the requirements of 5 U.S.C. 553, as noted, it is not subject to the provisions of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.). Nor do the interim amendments result in a “significant regulatory action” as specified in E.O. 12866.

Paperwork Reduction Act

The collection of information contained in this interim rule has already been approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3507) and assigned OMB Control Number 1515-0052 (Petition for remission or mitigation of forfeitures and penalties incurred). This collection encompasses a claim for seized property in a non-judicial civil forfeiture proceeding. This rule does not present any material change to the existing approved information collection. An agency may not conduct, and a person is not required to respond to, a collection of information unless the collection of information displays a valid control number assigned by OMB.

Part 178, Customs Regulations (19 CFR part 178), containing the list of approved information collections, is appropriately revised to make reference to OMB Control Number 1515-0052.

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List of Subjects

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Amendments to the Regulations

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Parts 162, 171 and 178, Customs Regulations (

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PART 162—INSPECTION, SEARCH, AND SEIZURE

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1. The general authority citation for part 162 continues to read as follows, and a specific authority citation for §§ 162.91-162.96 is added to read as follows:

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Authority: 5 U.S.C. 301; 19 U.S.C. 66, 1592, 1593a, 1624.

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Sections 162.91 through 162.96 also issued under 18 U.S.C. 983.

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2. Part 162 is amended by adding a new subpart H to read as follows:

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Subpart H—Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act

162.91
Exemptions.
162.92
Notice of seizure.
162.93
Failure to issue notice of seizure.
162.94
Filing of a claim for seized property.
162.95
Release of seized property.
162.96
Remission of forfeitures and payment of fees, costs or interest.

Subpart H—Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act

Exemptions.

The provisions of this subpart will apply to all seizures of property for civil forfeiture made by Customs officers except for those seizures of property to be forfeited under the following statutes: The Tariff Act of 1930 or any other provision of law codified in title19, Start Printed Page 78092United States Code; the Internal Revenue Code of 1986; the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 301 et seq.); the Trading with the Enemy Act (50 U.S.C. App. 1 et seq.); and section 1 of title VI of the Act of June 15, 1917 (40 Stat. 233; 22 U.S.C. 401).

Notice of seizure.

(a) Generally. Customs will send written notice of seizure as provided in this section to all known interested parties as soon as practicable. Except as provided in paragraphs (b), (c) and (d) of this section, in no case may notice be sent more than 60 calendar days after the date of seizure. Any notice issued under this section will include all information that is required by § 162.31(a) and (b) of this part.

(b) Seizure by state or local authorities. In a case in which property is seized by a state or local law enforcement agency and turned over to Customs for the purpose of forfeiture under Federal law, notice will be sent not more than 90 calendar days after the date of seizure by the State or local law enforcement agency.

(c) Identity or interest of party not determined. If the identity or interest of a party is not determined until after the seizure or turnover, but it is determined before a declaration of forfeiture, notice will be sent to such interested party not later than 60 calendar days after the determination by Customs of the identity of the party or the party's interest.

(d) Extensions by Customs. (1) The Assistant Commissioner, Investigations, or his designee, may extend the period for sending notice under this section for a period not to exceed 30 calendar days, if it is determined that issuance of the notice within 60 calendar days of seizure may have an adverse result, including:

(i) Endangering the life or physical safety of an individual;

(ii) Flight from prosecution;

(iii) Destruction of or tampering with evidence;

(iv) Intimidation of potential witnesses; or

(v) Otherwise seriously jeopardizing an investigation or unduly delaying a trial.

(2) The period for sending notice of seizure as provided in paragraph (d)(1) of this section may not be further extended except by order of a court of competent jurisdiction as prescribed in paragraph (e) of this section.

(e) Extensions by a court. Upon motion by the Government, a court of competent jurisdiction may extend the period for sending notice for a period not to exceed 60 calendar days. This period may be further extended by the court for additional 60 calendar-day periods, as necessary, if the court determines, based on a written certification of the Assistant Commissioner, Investigations, or designee, that the conditions set forth in paragraph (d) of this section are present.

Failure to issue notice of seizure.

If Customs does not send notice of a seizure of property in accordance with § 162.92 to the person from whom the property was seized, and no extension of time is granted, Customs will return the property to that person without prejudice to the right of the Government to commence a forfeiture proceeding at a later time. Customs is not, however, required to return contraband or other property that the person may not legally possess.

Filing of a claim for seized property.

(a) Generally. In lieu of filing a petition for relief in accordance with part 171 of this chapter, any person claiming property seized by Customs in a non-judicial civil forfeiture proceeding may file a claim with the appropriate Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures Officer.

(b) When filed. Unless the Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures Officer provides additional time to the person filing a claim for seized property pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section, the claim must be filed within 35 calendar days after the date the notice of seizure is mailed. If the notice of seizure is not received, a claim may be filed not later than 30 calendar days after the date of final publication of notice of seizure and intent to forfeit the property.

(c) Form of claim. The claim must be in writing but need not be made in any particular form.

(d) Content of claim. The claim must:

(1) Identify the specific property being claimed;

(2) State the claimant's interest in the property (and provide customary documentary evidence of such interest, if available) and state that the claim is not frivolous; and

(3) Be made under oath, subject to penalty of perjury.

(e) Effect of claim. Not later than 90 calendar days after a claim has been filed, the Government will file an appropriate complaint for forfeiture, except that a court in the district in which the complaint will be filed may extend the period for filing a complaint for good cause shown or upon agreement of the parties.

Release of seized property.

(a) Generally. Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, a claimant to seized property under 18 U.S.C. 983(a) is entitled to immediate release of the property if:

(1) The claimant has a possessory interest in the property;

(2) The claimant has sufficient ties to the community to provide assurance that the property will be available at the time of trial;

(3) The continued possession of the property by Customs pending the final disposition of forfeiture proceedings will cause substantial hardship to the claimant, such as preventing an individual from working, or leaving an individual homeless; and

(4) The claimant’s likely hardship from the continued possession by Customs of the seized property outweighs the risk that the property will be destroyed, damaged, lost, concealed, or transferred if it is returned to the claimant during the pendency of the proceedings.

(b) Exceptions. Immediate release of seized property under paragraph (a) of this section will not apply if the seized property:

(1) Is contraband, currency or other monetary instrument, or electronic funds, unless, in the case of currency, other monetary instrument or electronic funds, such property comprises the assets of a legitimate business;

(2) Is to be used as evidence of a violation of the law;

(3) By reason of design or other characteristic, is particularly suited for use in illegal activities; or

(4) Is likely to be used to commit additional criminal acts if returned to the claimant.

(c) Request for release. A claimant seeking release of property under this section must request possession of the property from the Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures Officer who issued the notice of seizure. The request need not be made in any particular form, but must be in writing and set forth the basis on which the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section have been met. The request may be filed at any time during which the property remains under seizure.

(d) Granting request for release. The Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures Officer may release the property if it is determined to be appropriate under paragraphs (a) through (c) of this section.

(e) Denial of or failure to act on request for release. If the Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures Officer denies the request for release or fails to make a decision on the request by the 15th Start Printed Page 78093calendar day after the date the request is received by Customs, the claimant may file a petition in the district court in which the complaint has been filed, or, if no complaint has been filed, in the U.S. district court in which the seizure warrant was issued or in the U.S. district court for the district in which the property was seized.

Remission of forfeitures and payment of fees, costs or interest.

When a person elects to petition for relief before, or in lieu of, filing a claim under § 162.94, any seizure subject to forfeiture under this subpart may be remitted or mitigated pursuant to the provisions of 19 U.S.C. 1618 or 31 U.S.C. 5321(c), as applicable. Any person who accepts a remission or mitigation decision will not be considered to have substantially prevailed in a civil forfeiture proceeding for purposes of collection of any fees, costs or interest from the Government.

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PART 171—FINES, PENALTIES AND FORFEITURES

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1. The authority citation for part 171 is revised to read as follows:

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Authority: 18 U.S.C. 983; 19 U.S.C. 66, 1592, 1593a, 1618, 1624; 22 U.S.C. 401; 31 U.S.C. 5321; 46 U.S.C. App. 320.

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Subpart F also issued under 19 U.S.C. 1595a, 1605, 1614; 21 U.S.C. 881 note.

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2. Part 171 is amended by adding a new § 171.24 to read as follows:

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Remission of forfeitures and payment of fees, costs or interest.

Any seizure subject to forfeiture may be remitted or mitigated pursuant to the provisions of 19 U.S.C. 1618 or 31 U.S.C. 5321, as applicable. Any person who accepts a remission or mitigation decision will not be considered to have substantially prevailed in a civil forfeiture proceeding for purposes of collection of any fees, costs or interest from the Government.

[Amended]
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3. In § 171.51(b)(7) and 171.52(a), the reference to “49 U.S.C. App. 782” is removed and, in its place, a reference to “

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PART 178—APPROVAL OF INFORMATION COLLECTION REQUIREMENTS

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1. The authority citation for part 178 continues to read as follows:

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Authority: 5 U.S.C. 301; 19 U.S.C. 1624; 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.

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2. Section 178.2 is amended by adding the following in appropriate numerical sequence according to the section number under the columns indicated:

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Listing of OMB control numbers.
19 CFR SectionDescriptionOMB Control No.
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§§ 162.94, 162.95(c)Petition for remission or mitigation of forefeitures and penalties incurred1515-0052
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§ 171.11Petition for remission or mitigation of forfeitures and penalties incurred1515-0052
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Approved: August 24, 2000.

Raymond W. Kelly,

Commissioner of Customs.

John P. Simpson,

Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.

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[FR Doc. 00-31882 Filed 12-13-00; 8:45 am]

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