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Rochester woman wins back $8,040 from federal government civil forfeiture proceeding

todayFebruary 9, 2024 2

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A Rochester business owner, Cristal Starling, won her fight to get nearly $8,040 back from the federal government.

She had been trying since 2020 when Rochester police took that sum from her residence as evidence while executing a warrant against her boyfriend at the time. RPD would give the money to the DEA.

That man was arrested and charged and has since been acquitted… But Starling was never charged.

One of the attorneys at the Institute of Justice, working on her case, Will Aronin, told News 8 Friday she had been saving that money to grow her business.

Aronin explained that Starling did not have an attorney, and couldn’t respond to notices fast enough. Then he said the federal government tried to keep the money using civil forfeiture, even winning a 2022 decision.

Once the Institute of Justice took on her case, they would win in an appellate court. But now that Starling got her $8,040, the case is not over.

She is still seeking interest and coverage of legal fees.

“By just giving back the money, that doesn’t make her whole,” Aronin said over Zoom. “She’s been out of that money for several years now, so she’s seeking interest. Congress in cases of civil forfeiture, they want to give people the ability to defend themselves.”

Aronin says this kind of civil forfeiture cases are becoming more common. As US Congress has recently passed protections for people in these cases in 2023.

Cornell Law defines civil forfeiture as a proceeding that “allows the government to seize — and then keep or sell — any property that is allegedly involved in a crime or illegal activity.”

Aronin says these civil forfeiture cases tend to target people who can’t afford the legal help needed to win the case. Then, the federal government will dismiss the case, not entitling people to legal fee compensation, he says.

News 8 has reached out to RPD’s civil case team, USAO, and the DEA and has not heard back yet.

​ ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A Rochester business owner, Cristal Starling, won her fight to get nearly $8,040 back from the federal government.

She had been trying since 2020 when Rochester police took that sum from her residence as evidence while executing a warrant against her boyfriend at the time. RPD would give the money to the DEA.

That man was arrested and charged and has since been acquitted… But Starling was never charged.

One of the attorneys at the Institute of Justice, working on her case, Will Aronin, told News 8 Friday she had been saving that money to grow her business.

Aronin explained that Starling did not have an attorney, and couldn’t respond to notices fast enough. Then he said the federal government tried to keep the money using civil forfeiture, even winning a 2022 decision.

Once the Institute of Justice took on her case, they would win in an appellate court. But now that Starling got her $8,040, the case is not over.

She is still seeking interest and coverage of legal fees.

“By just giving back the money, that doesn’t make her whole,” Aronin said over Zoom. “She’s been out of that money for several years now, so she’s seeking interest. Congress in cases of civil forfeiture, they want to give people the ability to defend themselves.”

Aronin says this kind of civil forfeiture cases are becoming more common. As US Congress has recently passed protections for people in these cases in 2023.

Cornell Law defines civil forfeiture as a proceeding that “allows the government to seize — and then keep or sell — any property that is allegedly involved in a crime or illegal activity.”

Aronin says these civil forfeiture cases tend to target people who can’t afford the legal help needed to win the case. Then, the federal government will dismiss the case, not entitling people to legal fee compensation, he says.

News 8 has reached out to RPD’s civil case team, USAO, and the DEA and has not heard back yet. Read More NewsRochesterFirst  

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