A Rochester woman whose $8,040 was seized during a police drug raid at her home in 2020 wants authorities to return her money because she “wasn’t charged with anything.” According to Democrat and Chronicle, the raid in question occurred at an apartment Cristal Starling was sharing with her then-boyfriend.
Authorities were investigating Starling’s then-partner for alleged drug dealing at the time. And though Rochester police did not find any drugs in the apartment during the raid, Starling said her $8,040 was seized. Starling’s ex-boyfriend was also arrested and charged in connection with drugs that were found at a separate home.
He was, however, ultimately acquitted. But Starling said her seized money was still not returned. Two cars that were also seized were ultimately given back to her. But she said she had to use a rental car for weeks after the cars were taken.
Starling’s case has been taken up by the public interest law firm, Institute for Justice. The non-profit said it’ll file an appeal at a federal court in an effort to overturn a judge’s ruling that federal and local police can hold on to Starling’s personal money.
Attorneys at the non-profit said Starling’s case isn’t an unusual forfeiture case. They also highlighted that in incidents where a seized amount of money isn’t plenty, the bureaucratic administrative process deters people who have grievances from following up, Democrat and Chronicle reported.
“This is very common where it’s a small amount of money,” Institute attorney Seth Young said. “You don’t hire a lawyer and the maze of forfeiture procedures trips up a person who represents themselves and the person ends up losing their money.”
Starling had initially tried to get her money returned without any legal assistance. She said she initially thought she’ll eventually get her money back after her ex-boyfriend was acquitted. But that wasn’t the case.
“After trial I tried to get my money back,” she said. “They sent me through this whole process of trying to get it through the courts and I still did not get it.”
In court papers, federal prosecutors reportedly claimed Starling failed to meet official deadlines to file for her money to be returned. Prosecutors also said Starling filed her first claim three months after it was ruled the government could keep the money. But Starling said she was away on a vacation at the time, and she even provided evidence to corroborate that.
Starling’s lawyers said her case will be taken back to a Rochester federal court for a review if their appeal is approved. She’ll subsequently have the opportunity – in the federal court – to argue why her money should be returned, her lawyers added. This process isn’t as cumbersome as the administrative procedures.