Drug Asset Seizure and Forfeiture

1. What is drug asset seizure and forfeiture? 

It is the seizure of drug related assets that have been used to facilitate drug trafficking or are derived from drug trafficking. Drug assets are subject to seizure and forfeiture under Wyoming civil law, and federal administrative, civil and criminal law. Forfeiture is not a new concept. In America, it dates back to 1789, where it was used primarily to deter maritime import and export smuggling.

2. Can the government just take an asset? 

No, the asset must be seized legally. Then the government has to be able to prove in a civil, administrative or criminal proceeding that the asset was used to facilitate drug trafficking, or was derived from drug trafficking for it to be forfeited to the government.

3. How are assets seized? 

Assets are seized by law enforcement officer’s incident to arrest, search warrant, and consent or with a seizure order.

4. What type of assets are seized? 

Typically, drug assets subject to seizure include currency, vehicles, real estate, firearms and other property.

5. What happens to the asset after it is seized? 

When an asset such as motor vehicle or currency is seized, it is treated like evidence and stored in a secure location. Reports are completed regarding the seizure of the asset including the identity of the owner, description of the asset, estimated value, liens if any, identity of lien holders if any, and other relevant information.

6. How is the forfeiture of an asset conducted? 

After an asset is seized, an Assistant Attorney General reviews the evidence and determines if a forfeiture action should be filed. If the evidence is not sufficient, the asset is returned to the owner. If the evidence is sufficient, a forfeiture action is filed. Once a forfeiture action is filed, the owner of the asset can contest the forfeiture in court.

7. What happens after an asset is forfeited? 

After an asset is forfeited by court order or other proceeding, an order of disposition is obtained from the Attorney General. The asset, such as currency, or the proceeds from the asset, as with the sale of a vehicle, is then transferred to the Attorney General fiscal officer for deposit to the asset fund.

8. Where are seized vehicles sold? 

After a vehicle is forfeited to the government, the vehicle is auctioned through the State of Wyoming to the public.

9. What is the asset fund used for? 

The asset fund is utilized to defer drug enforcement related costs upon approval of the Commissioner of Drugs and Controlled Substances and/or the Wyoming Legislature.

10. How much is seized every year? 

The amount of drug assets seized will vary considerably each year. In recent years, the amount of drug assets seized and forfeited has generally declined.

11. Is the asset fund audited? 

The asset fund is subject to state and federal government audit on a regular basis. It is also subject to internal audits and inspections.