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Property Owner Entitled to Interest on Seized Cash When Forfeiture Is Not Sustained


January 1996

The Ninth Circuit ruled on November 15 that if the government is not able to sustain a forfeiture, it must return the property and pay interest on funds it held (U.S. v. $277,000 in U.S. Currency, No. 93-55448, 69 F.3d 1491 (9th Cir. 1995)). Ramon S. Montes had his truck and $277,000 in cash seized by police in 1987. In 1992, a district court ruled that the government should return Montes' truck and assets, including interest the government earned from those funds. The government argued it was not required to pay interest on funds until a forfeiture judgement was passed down. The Court ruled that the government should be required to return both the property and the interest:

If the government seized, for example, a pregnant cow and was ultimately found not to be entitled to the cow after it had given birth, it could hardly be contended that the government had fulfilled its duty by returning the now-barren cow, but retaining the calf.