Will the FBI reimburse me for my barn?

Answers to your questions about the news.
May 26 2006 6:25 AM

The FBI Knocked Over My Barn …

Can I get reimbursed?

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Federal agents ordered the destruction of a barn at the Hidden Dreams Farm on Wednesday, so they could dig beneath it for the remains of Jimmy Hoffa. Will the FBI reimburse the owners for their demolished building? 

Probably. When an FBI investigation requires the premeditated destruction of private property, the agent in charge will try to work out a compensation package ahead of time. She'll get together with the property owners and a field office lawyer to negotiate a fair deal—the field office can approve any payment of up to $10,000. Anything more than that goes to FBI headquarters in Washington.

Daniel Engber Daniel Engber

Daniel Engber is a columnist for Slate

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Agents don't always have time to talk first and destroy later. The FBI might break down your door to execute a search warrant, for example, or break through the wall of your house, or crash into your car. In these cases, you can file an administrative claim with the local bureau field office. You can ask for reimbursement as a third party—if you had no connection to the crime under investigation—or you can argue that the damage to your property did not result from reasonable law enforcement action. Owners often elect to go to their insurance companies first and let the insurers handle any claims against the government.

Other law enforcement agencies have similar procedures. If the DEA busts into a rented apartment to catch some drug dealers, the landlord can file a claim for damages. He'll need to get a form from the agent in charge, explain what was damaged, and attach receipts to show the cost of the repairs.

You can take the government to court under the Federal Tort Claims Act if they try to lowball you on your claim. Families that get really screwed and have to move out of their homes—after a police raid with tear gas, for example—sometimes get housing assistance from special government funds or the American Red Cross.

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Explainer thanks Catherine Milhoan of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.