Fed prosecutors weasel out of paying legal fees for man who had case dismissed

July 30, 2023
Ryan Ledendecker

A bizarre situation has unfolded regarding a man who had his cash seized at the airport by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and his attempt to recover it. 

Moore, who had his cash seized at an Atlanta, Georgia airport, was never charged with a crime. He eventually fought, legally, to recover the large sum of cash.

However, the federal prosecutors behind the case, when they presumably realized that there wasn't a case to pursue, "dismissed" Moore's case, which is where the man's legal troubles began.

The federal prosecutors have apparently attempted to use an extremely technical maneuver to avoid paying Moore's court and lawyer fees, which he would otherwise be entitled to.

What happened?

Because Moore didn't technically "win" the civil forfeiture case, federal prosecutors argued that he was not entitled to have his legal and court fees paid.

They stressed that they dropped the case before he could prevail, meaning Moore could still be on the hook for the legal fees.

The Institute for Justice explained what's going on with the case, which seems rather unfair for Moore, especially given that he's not a criminal and wasn't charged.

"By federal law, property owners are supposed to have their attorneys’ fees paid by the government when they beat civil forfeiture. But a federal court determined that because the government gave up, Brian did not 'substantially prevail' and will not be reimbursed for the cost of litigating his case," the institute explained.

The Institute for Justice attorney behind the case argued that Moore should absolutely be entitled to having his legal fees paid, given the outcome of the case.

"The government should face consequences when it files meritless civil forfeiture cases," said attorney Joshua House. "By any definition, Brian won his case, and it is clear that Congress wanted the government to pay attorneys’ fees to property owners in these circumstances, so that victims of forfeiture abuse are made whole."

Navigating the "maze"

Moore was lucky in retaining the Institute of Justice to help him out in the otherwise unfair and weird situation. The money he was carrying on his way to Los Angeles was to support his music career.

"Fortunately, Brian was able to find attorneys who were willing to take his case and help him navigate the maze of federal civil forfeiture procedures. They successfully compiled the evidence proving that Brian’s money was from a legitimate source—from the sale of a vehicle owned by his late grandfather," the Institute for Justice wrote.

The institute added, "The government presented no evidence to support its allegations that the money came from a criminal source. The government dismissed the case 'with prejudice,' meaning that it could never refile the forfeiture case again."

For his part, Moore argued the same, explaining that he hadn't committed any crimes and noted that it was ridiculous that he has to retain legal counsel to get his money back. "I did nothing wrong but I had to spend thousands of dollars to get my own money back," Moore said.

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