DOJ Issues New Asset Forfeiture Policy for Structuring Offenses

The U.S. Department of Justice has issued a new policy that restricts prosecutors from using asset forfeiture for civil or criminal structuring offenses until after a defendant has been charged with a crime or has been found to have engaged in other criminal activity.

The policy was announced by Attorney General Eric Holder, and attempts to lower the risk for businesses or individuals who are conducting legitimate financial transactions to have funds frozen by a prosecutor using forfeiture laws.

Typically, structuring offenses involve transactions over $10,000 that are broken down into a series of smaller transactions to avoid having a financial institution file a currency transaction report. Structuring is sometimes indicative of a crime like money laundering.

The new policy states that, unless criminal charges have been filed, a prosecutor “shall not move to seize structured funds unless there is probable cause that the structured funds were generated by unlawful activity or that the structured funds were intended for use in, or to conceal or promote, ongoing or anticipated unlawful activity.”

In addition, if a prosecutor determines there is insufficient admissible evidence to win at trial, any funds seized pursuant to a warrant must be returned within seven days following that determination. A prosecutor must also file criminal or civil charges within 150 days from the date the funds were seized or return the funds.

The Cogdell Law Firm is a full service criminal litigation and appellate law firm with a focus on federal fraud defense, Medicare fraud defense, bank fraud defense, and white collar criminal defense. We provide client-focused representation at all stages of the process, whether our clients are seeking to avoid charges, have been charged, or are seeking reversal of a conviction on appeal. When results matter most, contact Dan Cogdell at (713) 426-2244 or