FAQs for Online Petitions

Filing a Petition

1. What's the difference between a petition and a claim?

A person who files a petition is not contesting the forfeiture. The petitioner either wants his/her interest in the asset to be recognized or is a victim of the crime(s) underlying the forfeiture. If the asset is forfeited to the government, the petitioner wants to be compensated for his/her interest.

A person who files a claim is contesting the seizure and is requesting to pursue the matter in court. The claimant believes the asset was not part of an illegal activity and was not purchased through ill-gotten gains.

2. How do I begin the process for filing a petition?

The www.forfeiture.gov website provides all the information you need to get started. To file a petition, you must describe the seized property, identify your interest in the seized property, and swear under oath to those facts. You may file a petition by mail or online. The Petitions page will describe your filing options. Be sure to view the Online Petition Help Video, if you chose to file online.

3. What are the deadlines for filing a petition?

If you received a notice letter from the federal agency, then your petition must be received by the federal agency no later than 30 days after the day you received the notice letter. If you did not receive a notice letter, then a petition can be filed no later than 30 days after the final publication of the Public Notices of Forfeiture found on www.forfeiture.gov. More information about deadlines for filing a petition can be found on the Petitions page.

Petitioners who are victims of the crime(s) underlying the forfeiture of the asset(s) may file a petition until 60 days after the forfeiture of the asset(s).

4. What forms are required to file a petition and where can I find them?

There is no required form to file a petition. You can file the petition in any format you choose. However, two convenient options are available for filing a petition: 1) filing online or 2) filing by mail using a standard petition form.

If you choose to file online, the online application will guide you through all the requirements using an online form. Be sure to view the Online Petition Help Video.

If you choose to file by mail, a standard paper form and its instructions can be found on the Petitions page. This standard form covers every requirement for filing a petition and may be printed, filled out, and mailed to the appropriate federal agency.

5. What supporting evidence is required to prove my interest in the asset?

Supporting evidence is not required to file a petition, however you may submit documentation to substantiate your petition. Documents that identify your interest in the property may include title paperwork, bank records, receipts, etc. If you do not include any supporting evidence when filing your petition, it may be requested from you at a later date.

6. What are the guidelines for uploading supporting documentation?

The list of guidelines for uploading supporting documentation can be found on the Petitions page.

7. How do I upload supporting documentation when my attachment is not an acceptable file type?

The online filing application only accepts certain file types. If your attachment is not one of the acceptable file types, then it is recommended you convert your attachment to another file type. To do so, open your attachment on your local machine and perform a 'Save As'. When you select 'Save As', a new window will display with a 'Save as Type' dropdown, in which you may save your attachment as one of the acceptable file types. The following file types are acceptable: PDF, DOC, DOCX, TXT, RTF, JPEG, JPG, GIF, BMP, TIFF, TIF, PNG.

If your attachment cannot be converted into an acceptable file type, then you may mail it individually, or along with your entire filing, to the agency directly.

8. What if I have more supporting documents than I am allowed to attach?

Users may attach up to 150 supporting documents to each filing. This does not include the Sworn Notice of Representation or the Signed Copy of your Petition that an attorney filing on behalf of their client must attach. If you have more attachments than that, please combine your attachments where possible to get the total number under the limit (For example: multiple images may be saved in a single file).

If your attachment cannot be combined, then you may mail it individually, or along with your entire filing, to the agency directly.

9. My supporting document is too large to attach. What can I do?

Users may attach files up to 10 MB in size. If you need to attach a file that exceeds the maximum file size, try to split your attachment into separate smaller files. For example, if a 15 MB attachment is too large, try cutting and pasting half of the information into a new file.

If you are unable to decrease the size of your attachment, then you may mail it individually, or along with your entire filing, to the agency directly.

10. What if the image I want to attach is larger than the allowed dimensions?

Users may attach image files with dimensions of up to 11000 x 11000 pixels. If any of your images are rejected for exceeding the size requirements, you will need to resize your image to be smaller before attempting to attach it again. Most photo editing software, such as Paint in Windows or Paintbrush in Mac OS, offers a simple "Resize" feature.

If you are unable to decrease the size of your image attachment, then you may mail it individually, or along with your entire filing, to the agency directly.

11. My attachment failed the PDF conversion/merge check. What should I do?

All PDF attachments must pass a PDF conversion and merge validation process to verify that your attachment can be saved into the single PDF document of the completed filing. If your attachment fails the PDF conversion/merge test, it is likely that your attachment is comprised of a non-standard PDF version. There are a few possible solutions to resolving this issue. One is to convert your attachment to another file type. To do so, open your attachment on your local machine and perform a 'Save As' function if possible. When you select 'Save As', a new window will display with a 'Save as Type' dropdown, in which you may save your attachment as one of the valid image types. Another is to paste a snapshot of your PDF into a Word processor and save it as a Word or PDF file.

If your attachment continues to fail this check, then you may mail it individually, or along with your entire filing, to the agency directly.

12. My image attachment failed the compression/conversion check. What should I do?

All image attachments must pass a PDF conversion and compression validation process to verify that your attachment can be saved into the single PDF document of the completed filing. If your image attachment fails the compression/conversion test, it is likely that your attachment is using incompatible encoding. There are a few possible solutions to resolving this issue. One is to convert your attachment to another image type. To do so, open your image on your local machine and perform a 'Save As' function if possible. When you select 'Save As', a new window will display with a 'Save as Type' dropdown, in which you may save your image as one of the valid image types. Another is to paste your image into a Word processor and save it as a Word or PDF file.

If your attachment continues to fail this check, then you may mail it individually, or along with your entire filing, to the agency directly.

13. What if my attachment fails the virus scanner?

All attachments must successfully pass a virus scan before being saved. If your attachment cannot pass the virus scanner, then it cannot be uploaded. To identify and remove any viruses or malware from a file, it is recommended to use a virus scanning tool on your local machine.

If you are unable to remove the virus from your attachment, then you may mail it individually, or along with your entire filing, to the agency directly.

14. Do I need an attorney to file a petition?

No, you do not need an attorney to file a petition. However, you have the option to hire legal counsel to represent you in filing the petition. Legal counsel will have the ability to file a petition on your behalf either online or by mail. However, you will need to sign the petition before legal counsel can file it.

15. Can I file a petition for more than one asset at a time?

Yes, you may file a petition for multiple assets at one time.

If filing online, you may file one petition and include multiple assets from multiple federal agencies. The system will automatically direct your petition to the appropriate agencies.

If filing by mail, you may identify multiple assets on your petition, but all assets must have been noticed by the same federal agency. If you are petitioning for assets noticed by multiple federal agencies, then you will have to file a separate petition to each agency for assets noticed only by that agency.

16. How do I file my petition by mail?

To file your petition by mail, you must state your interest in the asset(s) and you may provide copies of documents that support your petition. You can also print your online petition form and mail it to the appropriate federal agency.

Petitions filed by mail should be sent to the agency that sent you the notice letter or the agency that is identified on the public notice for the asset you are petitioning. Addresses for each agency are listed on the Petitions page.

17. I want to file a petition using the online process. How do I start?

From the www.forfeiture.gov website, click on the Petitions page and then click on File Your Petition Online. You will need to enter your email address so the system can send you a tracking number. This tracking number will be used throughout the lifecycle of your online petition. Once the tracking number is entered, you can start entering the required information. Keep your tracking number in a safe place. Be sure to view the Online Petition Help Video.

18. How do I find my assets when filing online?

Once you start the online process to file a petition, you will be directed to a Search page so you can identify assets. The following search options are available to assist you in finding your assets:

  • Asset ID
  • Notice Letter ID – Unique identifier for each notice letter sent that is printed in the "seized asset information table" on the notice letter you received.
  • Court Case Number – wildcard search is available
  • Judicial District
  • Asset Type
  • Seizing Agency
  • Seizure Address – wildcard search is available
  • Seizure City – wildcard search is available
  • Seizure State
  • Seizure Date

If your asset is retrieved using the search, then you can include that asset in your petition. If the asset is not retrieved, then your asset is no longer available for online filing.

19. Why is my asset not available online?

There are a variety of reasons why an asset may no longer be available. These include, but are not limited to:

  • The asset was forfeited more than 60 days ago.
  • The asset was returned to the owner.
  • The federal agency has decided not to forfeit this asset.

However, you may still file a petition for that asset by mail. You must submit all required information to the appropriate seizing agency. Addresses for each agency are listed on the Petitions page.

20. What if I do not know the answer to some of the questions on the online petition and/or need more than one session to complete my online petition?

Your work can be saved while you research any information required of you during the petition process. However, you only have 30 days to file your petition online. You will not be allowed to submit your petition online if any required information is not entered.

However, this 30-day window to file a petition online does not take into account your deadline to file a petition. While the online system gives all users 30 days to file online, you still must file your petition by the deadline date. Please see question 3 above for more information.

21. How do I resume filing my online petition?

If you started your online petition within the past 30 days, click on the "Petitions" link at the top right hand corner of the Home Page and then click on "File Your Petition Online". At the bottom of the screen, you can select "Resume Petition". You will be asked to enter your tracking number from the original submission. Follow the directions on the screen to continue your petition. Please note that if you started your petition more than 30 days ago, you will have to start the petition process over and you must still file your petition by the deadline date.

22. Can I file a petition online if I am the legal guardian of or have power of attorney for the petitioner?

Yes, you may file an online petition if you are the legal guardian of or have power of attorney for the petitioner. When filing, you will be asked if the petitioner has an attorney representing them for this petition. Unless there is an outside attorney hired to represent the petitioner, please select "No" for this question. Being a legal guardian of or having power of attorney for the petitioner does not mean you are the attorney representing them for this petition.

23. Does filing a petition online ensure that it will be granted?

Filing a petition online does not ensure that the petition will be granted. Petitions will be reviewed individually and ruled on by the investigative agency or the Department of Justice, Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS). To help with the processing of your petition, please make sure to include all necessary information and all available supporting documentation.

24. Can I file a petition for reconsideration online?

No. A Petition for Reconsideration can only be filed by mail. You must send your petition for reconsideration to the appropriate federal agency via U.S. mail or commercial carrier as instructed. See 28 C.F.R. Part 9.

25. What if I have technical problems when using the online filing option?

You may contact the Forfeiture Systems Help Desk for technical assistance at AFMS.services@usdoj.gov. The Forfeiture Systems Help Desk will not be able to answer any legal questions or provide assistance on the content of your petition.

After a Petition is Filed

1. Can I revise my petition after I have filed it online?

If you need to make any changes to your filed petition, you must send an amendment to the appropriate federal agency via U.S. mail or commercial carrier. Make sure to include the following when submitting an amendment:

  • Your full name
  • Your online tracking number
  • The relevant asset ID(s)
  • Your signature

The address for each agency can be found on the Petitions page.

2. How do I track the progress of my petition? Who can I call for updates?

The appropriate federal agency will contact you about your petition by U.S. mail or commercial carrier to let you know about the status of your petition and the necessary next steps.

You may contact the appropriate agency for more information.

3. Who rules on the petition?

Petitions are ruled on by legal counsel at either the Investigating Agency or the Department of Justice, Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section. (MLARS).

4. What happens if I file a false petition?

A petition containing false information may subject the petitioner to criminal prosecution under Title 18 United States Code Section 1001 and Title 18 United States Code Section 1621.