If you have questions about Forfeiture law, please call me for a free consultation. I filed the Federal Class Action lawsuit of Washington v. Marion County Prosecutor, challenging Indiana’s vehicle forfeiture seizure law. The Federal Judge agreed with my position, ruling that the Indiana forfeiture statute was unconstitutional, under the Due Process clause of the US Constitution. The Federal Judge also issued an injunction against against the Indianapolis Prosecutor ordering him to cease vehicle forfeiture.
I also co-authored the amicus brief for the United States Supreme Court case of Timbs v. Indiana, in which the Supreme Court held that Indiana’s attempts at forfeiture were unconstitutional under the Excessive Fines clause of the US Constitution.
Forfeiture in General
Civil forfeiture is a legal fiction that allows the government to take action against inanimate objects regardless of whether the owner is charged with a crime.  Forfeiture traces its roots to Roman and medieval English law, but originated in Biblical and pre-Judeo-Christian practices.  At common law, an object that caused the death of a King’s subject, even if accidentally, was forfeited to the Crown as a deodand.  The value of the object was then used for charitable purposes or to pay for masses for the dead man’s soul.  Over time, Prosecutors began using forfeiture to obtain jurisdiction over property when violators of maritime law were overseas and could not be prosecuted.  Today, all States allow for forfeiture and there are over four hundred federal forfeiture statutes. 
Justice Thomas of the United States Supreme Court has explained: “This system – where police can seize property with limited judicial oversight and retain it for their own use – has led to egregious and well-chronicled abuses. . . I am skeptical that this historical practice is capable of sustaining, as a constitutional matter, the contours of modern practice.” 
Randall Shepard, Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, wrote: “An important feature of many of these statutes is characterization of the process as civil forfeiture under which (by contrast to criminal forfeiture) a property owner need not be found guilty of a crime—or even charged—to lose permanently their cash, car, home or other property. The relative ease of effecting such forfeiture and the disposition of the assets have become a matter of public note.” 
In a case I recently handled, Judge Manion, a Federal Judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote: “in 2015, law enforcement took more property from Americans than criminals did . . . vehicle forfeitures are economically painful. Many Americans depend on cars for food, school, work, medical treatment, church, relationships, arts, sports, recreation, and anything farther away than the ends of their driveways. Cars extend us. Cars manifest liberty. A person released on bond, retaining a presumption of innocence, might suffer virtual imprisonment if he cannot regain his vehicle in time to drive to work.”
If you have any questions about your case, please do not hesitate to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you.
Sending Cash by Fedex or US Mail
It is generally not illegal to send cash, even in large quantities, by mail or Fedex. However, cash often contains trace amounts of drug residue. If you go to the bank, and request enough cash, some of the bills will inevitably have trace amounts of drug residue (most often cocaine). If you send this cash by Fedex, it is likely to eventually make its way to the Fedex sorting center, in Marion County, Indianapolis, Indiana. The Indiana State Police and Indianapolis Police Department have police officers (often Thorla, Wix, and Etter) as well as drug dogs specifically assigned to the Indianapolis Fedex sorting center (and they make a great deal of profit from the cash that comes through). If there is a Fedex package with a large quantity of cash in it, a drug dog will likely hit on the package. A drug dog hitting on a package is generally adequate to establish probable cause for a search and seizure of the currency.
The Indiana State Police or Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department will then generally submit an AFFIDAVIT FOR PROBABLE CAUSE to a Judge in Marion County, Indiana, which states something similar to the following:
I do swear and affirm that the following information is true to the best of my knowledge: I am a police officer With the Indiana State Police Department or the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Because of the breadth of this investigation, this affidavit is being submitted to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office for the purpose of establishing probable cause. It does not contain all of the information gathered during this investigation, list all witnesses to this incident, and is not a complete account of all events during this incident. This investigation is on-going and will be supplemented by other officers as necessary. I am currently assigned as a Detective to the Criminal Interdiction Unit 0f the Indiana State Police Drug Enforcement Section. In connection with my official duties, I am involved in investigations relating to violations of the Indiana controlled substances laws. I have received training relating to enforcement of the Indiana controlled substances laws, including the following:
1. I participated in training at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. I have satisfied the minimum basic training requirements established by the rules adopted by the law enforcement training board under I.C. 5-2-1-9 and described in I.C. 35-37-4-5.
2. I have participated in criminal interdiction training courses, which
included specific training in detecting shipments containing controlled
3. Yearly in-service training.
4. I have been assigned to the Homeland Security Investigations Parcel / Bulk Cash Smuggling Interdiction Task Force, comprised of the Indiana State Police, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations since operations started at local shipping companies in 2012 and have been involved in over 1100 parcel investigations and seizures.
While working parcel interdiction at a local shipping company with the Homeland Security Investigations Parcel / Bulk Cash Smuggling Interdiction Task Force, comprised of the Indiana State Police, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, a parcel was intercepted that appeared inconsistent with other parcels. The parcel was sent from: (name). The parcel was sent to: (name). The tracking number was (tracking number). The parcel was deemed suspicious because of the new bought box which had extra external tape and a printed label that showed priority overnight delivery and was paid with credit card or cash. The parcel was from an individual to an individual. The parcel was from residence to a residence. There was not a telephone number listed for the receiver. After the parcel was intercepted, TFO officers took the parcel at the local shipping company and moved it to an on site location in a special area where a certified drug detection canine Mina handled by Officer Brian Thorla, with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, was ran on the exterior of the package to examine the earlier described parcel for the odor of a controlled substance. The examination of the parcel indicated that the odor of a controlled substance was emitting from the parcel. Officer Thorla then prepared a search warrant for the parcel. Once it was granted, Indiana State Police Seargeant Taylor Shafer and Officer Thorla opened the parcel and found the new purchased sealed box with extra external tape contained U.S. Currency. Upon executing the search warrant and the currency being recovered, narcotic detection canine Mina and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Brian Thorla conducted a blind search of the listed currency. Canine Mina gave a positive indication to a narcotic odor. The indication confirmed that the currency has a threshold of narcotic contamination. The currency was later bank counted and was converted to a cashiers check by Chase Bank with for (amount of cash) made out to USCBP. All evidence was then turned over to Indiana State Police Trooper William Etter for processing and handling. The cashier check was submitted to the Indiana State Police Lab for storage and the box turned over to Homeland Security Investigations for further investigative follow up on the out of state sender and receivers. Further additional follow up will be conducted by the Indiana State Police forfeiture and Drug Enforcement Section and Homeland Security Investigations. Notifications to the sender and receiver of the law enforcement seizure were posted on the shipping companies tracking information with the seizing law enforcement agency name and contact numbers for further follow up. Based on the Canine alerts of the currency described above and the shipping labels also described above that showed a lack of information that is consistent with other overnight parcels and the concealment, label deception, and currency denominations listed in the search warrant return (attached) and information described in the search warrant affidavit (attached). I believe that the above described parcels and U.S. Currency seized from that parcels are consistent with bulk cash smuggling associated with drug trafficking and the proceeds of drug trafficking, bulk cash smuggling, money laundering, involving the proactive attempts of concealing currency as listed above and in the attached search warrants and returns. I request probable cause be found for the seizure of the above seized U.S. Currency. All of the aforementioned events occurred in Marion County, Indiana. I swear (affirm), under penalty of perjury that the foregoing representations are true.
After this is signed, the Marion County Prosecutor, in Indiana, will file a motion to transfer seized property to the United States, which states something similar to the following:
Comes now the State of Indiana, Marion County Deputy Prosecutor, and pursuant to Indiana Code 35-33-5-5(j), moves the Court to issue a Transfer Order authorizing the State to turn over to the appropriate federal authority certain property seized from the above-captioned subject(s), and held by the State. In support of this motion, the following good and sufficient reasons are given:
1. Officers of the Plaintiff executed a valid and duly signed search warrant at 6648 S. Perimeter Rd., Indianapolis, Indiana (the Fedex sort center in Indianapolis). During the execution of said search warrant, U.S. currency was discovered and confiscated as proceeds of narcotics trafficking under Indiana Code 35-48-4-1 and/or money laundering under Indiana Code 35-45-15-5;
2. Said currency had been furnished or was intended to be furnished in exchange for a violation of a criminal statute (Indiana Code 35-48-4-1 and/or Ind. Code 35-45-15-5), or is traceable as proceeds of narcotics trafficking and/or money laundering, a Violation of a criminal statute;
3. A copy of the probable cause affidavit, search warrant and search warrant return are attached to this motion as supporting documents;
4. Based on federal asset forfeiture statutes, the funds and property previously discussed are eligible for forfeiture through the federal court system;
5. Plaintiff believes it is in the best interest of justice and judicial economy for the items listed to be turned over to the appropriate federal authorities for forfeiture proceedings;
6. Should this motion to transfer seized property be granted, the aforementioned U.S. currency will be turned over to the appropriate federal authority;
7. An ex-parte motion for probable cause determination is being filed along with this motion, in compliance with Indiana Code 34-24-1-2; and
8. Upon the granting of the motion for probable cause determination, this motion will be served on the Defendants.
Wherefore, the State of Indiana, by Marion County Deputy Prosecutor, respectfully requests, pursuant to Indiana Code 35-33-5-5(j), that this Court issue a Transfer Order authorizing the State of Indiana to turn over the aforementioned property to the appropriate federal authorities for purposes 0f a federal forfeiture action.
The supporting affidavit will generally state something similar to the following:
Officer Brian Thorla initially removed the suspect parcel from sorting at the local shipping company based on parcel indicators he gained through experience with parcel interdiction. The parcel indicators used for this suspect parcel are as follows:
- The suspect parcel was a white new FedEx box that was not reused. Officer Brian Thorla has learned that FedEx boxes are rare as most business use their own boxes for shipments. Additionally, Officer Brian Thorla has learned that individuals involved in narcotics trafficking, bulk cash smuggling, and money laundering like to use new boxes because they are not contaminated with a narcotic odor;
- The suspect parcel had a piece of tape over the flap of the FedEx box that was not necessary. Officer Brian Thorla has learned that individuals involved in narcotics trafficking, bulk cash smuggling, and money laundering unnecessarily or heavily tape their parcels to keep the narcotic odor inside the box;
- The suspect parcel was shipped priority overnight. Officer Brian Thorla has learned priority overnight is a costly method and is used mainly by businesses. Individuals involved in controlled substance trafficking, bulk cash smuggling, and money laundering want their parcels on time and a delayed parcel can signal law enforcement involvement;
- The suspect parcel was shipped to a source state. Officer Brian Thorla has learned through his experience with parcel interdiction that narcotics flow from the west coast to the east coast and money flows from the east coast to the west coast;
- The suspect parcel was shipped without signature upon delivery required. Officer Brian Thorla has learned that individuals involved in trafficking of controlled substances, bulk cash smuggling, and money laundering do not send parcels containing U.S. Currency with signature required upon delivery. Those individuals can remain anonymous and pick up the parcels from the front porch of a residence;
- Shipping of the suspect parcel was paid for by cash. Officer Brian Thorla has learned that individuals involved in narcotics trafficking, bulk cash smuggling, and money laundering pay for their parcel’s shipping by cash because it allows those individuals to remain anonymous;
- The suspect parcel was shipped to a FedEx store and not a residence. Officer Brian Thorla has learned that this allows individuals involved in narcotics trafficking, bulk cash smuggling, and money laundering to remain anonymous and watch for law enforcement; and
- The sending address of the suspect parcel was a business name; however, Officer Brian Thorla researched the address and found the address to be a post office. Officer Brian Thorla has learned that this method allows individuals involved in narcotics trafficking, bulk cash smuggling, and money laundering to remain anonymous and watch for law enforcement.
Officer Brian Thorla is partnered with K9 Hogan (or Mina). K9 Hogan (or Mina) has several years of experience working as a narcotics detection K9. Officer Brian Thorla trains with his K9 three to four times per month. The K9 is trained to only alert to narcotic odors, not circulated or uncirculated U.S. currency that does not contain narcotic odors. The K9 positively alerted to the presence of narcotic odor on the suspect parcel after two examinations: The first examination was conducted at the local shipping Company with ten (10) to thirty (30) similar parcels. The second examination was conducted at another facility with at least three (3) other similar sized parcels. Officer Brian Thorla obtained a search warrant for the suspect parcel based on, among other things, the parcel indicators and the positive K9 examinations. The search warrant allowed for the search and seizure of “controlled substances, illegal controlled substances (Marijuana, Methamphetamine, Cocaine, Heroin, MDMA) also records of drug trafficking and proceeds of drug trafficking, bulk cash smuggling, money laundering, involving the proactive attempts of concealing currency as listed in the affidavit; as well as money orders and gift cards.” There was also evidence of: excessive or heavy taping, masking agents heat sealed or vacuum packed bags, layers of carbon paper, multiple layers of aluminum foil, sealed liquid plastic or spray foam insulation, air fresheners, dryer sheets, axle grease, fabric softener, perfume, deodorizers, mustard, spray foam insulation, scented packing peanuts, dirty diapers, concealment of the currency in candles, auto parts, shoes, clothing, stuffed animals or toys, ceramics and other figurines or food items such as coffee, sauces, bread, cereal, electronics such as DVD players and stereos, between pages of books, magazines or miniature safes.
If you have cashed that was seized, and have questions about your case, please call me for a free consultation. If the cash was being sent for completely innocent purposes, we may be able to recover the entire amount. However, even if the money was being sent under suspicious circumstances, it is likely that we will be able to recover a portion of the cash through settlement, without you testifying or appearing in Court.
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 Serrano v. State, 946 N.E.2d 1139, 1141 (Ind. 2011).  Id. and Calero v. Pearson Yacht Leasing Co., 416 U.S. 663, 681 (1974).  Calero, 416 U.S. at 681.  Id.  Serrano, 946 N.E.2d at 1141.  Id.  Leonard v. Texas, 137 S. Ct. 847, 848-849 (2017)(Thomas, concurring).  Serrano at 1141.
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