Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Before Lynch, Chief Judge, Selya and Lipez, Circuit Judges.

Nearly twenty years ago, when appellant Erick Flores-Rivera was arrested on federal drug charges, the United States Customs Service*fn1 took possession of his new Jeep Cherokee, $1,903 in cash, and other items.*fn2 Pursuant to a plea agreement, Flores pled guilty to two counts in January 1991, and the court imposed a term of imprisonment of 240 months and a $20,000 fine. Eight years later, in 1999, the government conceded that Flores was entitled to the return of the seized property because it had been improperly forfeited without notice. Remarkably, however, as a result of procedural errors and misjudgments by the district court, abetted by the government’s own conduct and inaction, Flores is still without his property*fn3 and there has been no proper determination that it may lawfully be withheld from him. The most glaring of these missteps was the one challenged in this appeal: the district court’s sua sponte ruling in December 2008 that the property should be returned but, at the same time, summarily ordering that the funds be applied to Flores’s criminal fine.

At oral argument, the government tried to defend the decision of the district court as not plain error. Subsequently, it sensibly changed its position and acknowledged that the case should be remanded so that the district court can “properly determine” the amount that should be returned to Flores, which also would give the court, as the government finally put it, “the opportunity to comply with the notification requirements and the procedures for enforcement of criminal fines in 18 U.S.C. §§[] 3572, 3611-15.” Both the amount owed to Flores for his property and whether that entire sum may be immediately applied to his fine are difficult issues of considerable consequence to him. The Jeep was new when it was seized, and Flores asserts that it was worth $23,000 at that time. A customs employee reported in a 2007 declaration that the vehicle was transferred from storage in June 1992 and used by the agency for almost seven years – without compensation to Flores – until it was sold for $6,400 in 1999.*fn4 In addition, Flores entered into a contract with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to repay his fine in installments, see infra, but the government contends that the district court nonetheless has the authority to order full payment at any time.

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.

More From ALM

Premium Subscription

With this subscription you will receive unlimited access to high quality, online, on-demand premium content from well-respected faculty in the legal industry. This is perfect for attorneys licensed in multiple jurisdictions or for attorneys that have fulfilled their CLE requirement but need to access resourceful information for their practice areas.
View Now

Team Accounts

Our Team Account subscription service is for legal teams of four or more attorneys. Each attorney is granted unlimited access to high quality, on-demand premium content from well-respected faculty in the legal industry along with administrative access to easily manage CLE for the entire team.
View Now

Bundle Subscriptions

Gain access to some of the most knowledgeable and experienced attorneys with our 2 bundle options! Our Compliance bundles are curated by CLE Counselors and include current legal topics and challenges within the industry. Our second option allows you to build your bundle and strategically select the content that pertains to your needs. Both options are priced the same.
View Now

BenefitsPRO Broker Expo 2021

May 18, 2021 - August 18, 2021
Virtual / San Diego, CA

The premier educational and networking event for employee benefits brokers and agents.


African Legal Awards 2021

September 03, 2021

The African Legal Awards are set out to recognise exceptional achievement from Africa s legal elite.


General Counsel Summit (GCS) 2021

September 07, 2021 - September 08, 2021

General Counsel Summit is the premier event for in-house counsel, hosting esteemed legal minds from all sectors of the economy.


Montgomery County, PA – Litigation Associate

Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, United States

Fox Rothschild LLP has an opening in the Montgomery County (Blue Bell), PA office for a litigation associate. The ideal candidate will have&...

Apply Now ›

Montgomery County, PA – Senior Attorney (Non-Partnership Track)

Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, United States

Fox Rothschild LLP has an opening in the Montgomery County (Blue Bell), PA office for a Senior Attorney in the Litigation Department. T...

Apply Now ›

Atlanta, GA – Litigation Associate

Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Fox Rothschild LLP has an opening in the Atlanta, GA office for an associate with 3 – 5 years of business litigation experience. A str...

Apply Now ›



VAN DER VEEN, O NEILL, HARTSHORN, AND LEVIN is pleased to welcome Frank Breitman, Esq. a talented and respected litigator to our ranks of trial lawyers.

View Announcement ›



HARWOOD LLOYD, LLC Welcomes Beth L. Barnhard, Esq. Beth has joined the firm as Counsel in the Wills, Trusts and Estates Department. She is Certified to be an Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the ABAaccredited National Elder Law Foundation.

View Announcement ›



SNYDER SARNO D'ANIELLO MACERI & DACOSTA is Proud to Announce the opening of New Morristown Office!

View Announcement ›