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Case Basics
Docket No. 
United States
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
Facts of the Case 

While Larry Dean Dusenbery was in prison on federal drug charges, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began an administrative process to forfeit cash that officers seized when they executed a search warrant for the residence where he was arrested. The FBI sought to notify Dusenbery by sending certified mail addressed to him care of the federal correctional institution where he was incarcerated; to the address of the residence where he was arrested; and to an address in the town where his mother lived. The FBI received no response in the time allotted and turned over the cash to the United States Marshals Service. When Dusenbery moved for the return of all the property and funds seized in his criminal case, the District Court denied the motion. On remand, the District Court ruled that the Government's sending of notice by certified mail to Dusenbery's place of incarceration satisfied his due process rights as to the cash. The Court of Appeals affirmed.


Does the FBI's notice of intended forfeiture by sending certified letters to inmates while incarcerated satisfy due process?

Decision: 5 votes for United States, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Due Process

Yes. In a 5-4 opinion delivered by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, the Court held that the FBI's notice of the cash forfeiture satisfied due process. The Court reasoned that the means employed to provide notice to the prisoner were reasonably calculated, under all the circumstances, to apprise the prisoner of the forfeiture. The prisoner did not actually have to receive the notice, noted Chief Justice Rehnquist. "The Government could, for example, have allowed [Dusenbery] to make an escorted visit to the post office himself in order to sign for his letter. But the Due Process Clause does not require such heroic efforts by the Government; it requires only that the Government's effort be 'reasonably calculated' to apprise a party of the pendency of the action." Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, and Stephen G. Breyer, dissented, arguing that the Court was condoning a procedure that was too lax to reliably insure that a prisoner would receive a legal notice.

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DUSENBERY v. UNITED STATES. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2001/2001_00_6567>.
DUSENBERY v. UNITED STATES, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2001/2001_00_6567 (last visited August 25, 2015).
"DUSENBERY v. UNITED STATES," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2001/2001_00_6567.