A Florida mom who spent a third of her life savings on legal fees fighting the federal government over a wrongful seizure is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to take her case. Without ever being charged with a crime, Miladis Salgado lost over $15,000 when the DEA raided her home and seized her cash. After two years of court battles, Miladis finally won. And under federal law, property owners who “substantially prevail” in a civil forfeiture case are entitled to attorneys’ fees, costs, and interest.
But prosecutors deployed a tactic that lets the federal government weasel out of paying Miladis. Right before a judge was finally about to rule on her case, the federal government decided to return the seized property to Miladis and filed to dismiss the case “without prejudice,” which would allow prosecutors to refile the forfeiture lawsuit later on. Since Miladis didn’t technically win her case in court, federal courts ruled that she didn’t “substantially prevail” and wasn’t owed any legal fees.