United States District Court, D. Maryland
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW United States District Judge.
pending and ready for resolution in this case is Defendant
Karim Mowatt's motion for return of property. (ECF No.
59). He requests the return of “[a]ll papers, books and
other tangible objects”, “[v]ideo tapes (VCR and
Mini-DV)”, “[a]ll pictures and photos”,
“[a]ll credit cards and bank statements”,
“3 Passports (American)”, “[d]river'[s]
[l]icense, Social Security Card and Birth Certificate”,
and “$20, 036 U.S. Currency” seized on November
17, 2005 by the Bladensburg Police Department
government filed a response in opposition to the motion on
May 12, 2010 (ECF No. 64) asserting that Mowatt is not
entitled to the return of $20, 796 which was administratively
forfeited in 2006, nor to the requested passports. However,
he is entitled to the return of the remainder of his property
requests. Mowatt has not filed a reply. The issues are fully
briefed and the court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6,
no hearing being deemed necessary. For the following reasons,
the motion for return of property will be granted in part and
denied in part.
November 2005, the Bladensburg Police Department (BPD)
responded to a noise complaint in Karim Mowatt's
(“Mowatt”) apartment. As Mowatt opened his door,
the BPD requested that he reveal his right hand hidden behind
his back. When Mowatt refused, an officer reached for his
hand. In response to Mowatt's resistance, the officers
Mowatt was placed in the living room, he began to wrestle
with one of the officers. The officer and Defendant slammed
into Mowatt's refrigerator which forced the refrigerator
door open. Another officer noticed a plastic bag containing
ecstasy pills in the refrigerator. The officers called their
supervisor at the BPD to obtain a search warrant. Upon
obtaining the search warrant, the officers seized some of
Mowatt's property including more than $20, 000 in
currency and two passports. The BPD turned the seized
property over to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
August 17, 2006, Mowatt was sentenced to 197 months
imprisonment for four counts of narcotic trafficking and
weapon related charges. The United States Court of Appeals
for the Fourth Circuit reversed this court's ruling that
the BPD had not illegally seized property from
Defendant's apartment on January 25, 2008. (ECF No. 55).
The mandate was issued on February 25, 2008 (ECF No. 56).
United States v. Mowatt, 513 F.3d 395, 405
(4th Cir. 2008). The government then moved to
dismiss the indictment which was granted the same
date. (ECF No. 57). Mowatt filed the instant
motion for return of property on December 4, 2009. (ECF No.
Motion for Return of Property
argues that the BPD searched and seized property from his
apartment “without a legally signed search
warrant” under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure
41(e). (ECF No. 59 at 1).
41(g) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure states that
[a] person aggrieved by an unlawful search and seizure of
property or by the deprivation of property may move for the
property's return. The motion must be filed in the
district where the property was seized. The court must
receive evidence on any factual issue necessary to decide the
“[A] party who claims that the government must return
seized property . . . must demonstrate lawful entitlement to
the property and an equitable right to its return.”
Babb v. U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, 146
F.App'x. 614, 620 (4th Cir. 2005)(internal
quotations omitted)(“[u]sually, this showing is
minimal, as ‘the person from whom the property was
seized is presumed to have a right to its
return'”)(citing United States v.
Chambers, 192 F.3d 374, 377 (3d 1999). The
party may support this burden by showing that the government
no longer has a need for the property. See United States
v. Garcia, 65 F.3d 17, 20 (4th Cir. 1995).
The burden then shifts to the government to show that it has
a legitimate interest in keeping the property. Id.; see
also United States v. Carter, 139 F.3d 424, 429
(4th Cir. 1998)(legitimate interest can included
items seized for continued use in investigations).
government does not have a legitimate reason for retaining
the property, “individuals whose property interests are
at stake are entitled to notice” of the property and
the opportunity to reclaim it. Dusenberry v. United
States, 534 U.S. 161, 167 (2002)(internal quotations
omitted)(citing United States v. James Daniel Good Real
Prop., 510 U.S. 43, 48 (1993)). The government must show
that notice was given to reclaim the property.
Dusenberry, 534 U.S. at 168. Notice is
“reasonably calculated, under all the circumstances, to
apprise interested parties of the pendency of the action and
afford them an opportunity to present their
objections.” Id. at 168 (quoting Mullane
v. Cent. Bank & Trust Co., 339 U.S. 306, 309-10
to 19 U.S.C. § 1607, the government may provide notice
of forfeiture of property worth less than $500, 000.
United States v. Minor, 228 F.3d 352, 354
(4th Cir. 2000)(stating that forfeitures under
customs laws apply to forfeitures under drug laws in
accordance with 21 U.S.C. § 881(d)). The government
“must publish notice of its intention to declare
forfeiture of the seized property and must provide written
notice to interested parties.” Minor, 228 F.3d
at 354 (citing 19 ...