Feds Finally Return $8,000 Seized From Innocent Woman During Raid After Long Court Battle

by Gee NY
Image Credit: Institute for Justice

The federal government has finally returned $8,000 to Cristal Starling, a Rochester woman whose funds were seized during a raid in 2020 as part of a drug investigation involving her former boyfriend.

Following a lengthy court battle, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) returned the money on Jan. 23 after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in Starling’s favor last August.

Starling, who operated a successful mobile food cart business at the time of the seizure, expressed relief at the return of her funds, emphasizing the importance of understanding one’s rights in such situations.

She had been determined to reclaim her money without legal representation and navigated administrative procedures to file a claim with the DEA.

The seizure occurred when Rochester police raided Starling’s apartment in October 2020, alleging her boyfriend’s involvement in drug-related activities.

However, no drugs were found during the raid, and the boyfriend was later acquitted by a jury.

Despite this, Starling’s money was confiscated under civil asset forfeiture laws, a controversial practice that allows law enforcement agencies to seize assets suspected of being connected to criminal activity.

Starling’s case highlights the challenges faced by individuals caught in the civil forfeiture process, where missed deadlines and bureaucratic hurdles can impede efforts to reclaim seized property.

Legal experts have criticized civil forfeiture laws for undermining the presumption of innocence and placing the burden of proof on property owners, particularly those without the resources to mount a legal defense.

The Institute for Justice, which represented Starling in her forfeiture case, is now seeking interest payments for the three years her money was held.

Starling hopes that her experience will shed light on the flaws in the current forfeiture system and encourage reforms to protect individuals’ rights in similar situations.

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