Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act: Property Seizure Law
“Without the assistance of an attorney, the chances of recovering property are exceptionally slim.” – Criminal Legal News
The Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, like the federal forfeiture law, was enacted mainly to deprive drug dealers of their ill-gotten gains. Seizing all the fancy cars, boats, jewelry, and bundles of cash of suspected lawbreakers was seen as a way to take the profits out of the wildly profitable illicit drug trade. The idea was to send a message that “crime does not pay.”
But for state and local law enforcement agencies in Florida, it turns out that crime does pay. What began as a deterrent quickly became a valued revenue source for local sheriffs and police departments. Some law enforcement agencies fund up to 20% of their budgets by auctioning off the bling and keeping the cash. Experts say that “Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture Act remains an incentive for law enforcement to police for profit.”
As a result, police are sometimes a little too eager to help themselves to all of a defendant’s worldly possessions and clean out their bank accounts after they slap the cuffs on. And once they have it, it’s very tough to get it back. While every state has asset seizure laws, Florida ranked among the worst when it comes to applying the law fairly. And advocates say that for people whose property has been seized through civil asset forfeiture in Florida, legally regaining such property is notoriously difficult.
Federal Asset Forfeiture Act
Anyone under criminal investigation in Florida needs to understand both state and federal asset forfeiture laws. After many complaints, Florida changed its civil forfeiture law in 2016 to hold law enforcement more accountable. Before then, law enforcement could take all of a suspect’s money and property without an arrest or formal charges.
Now, police can only take action after an arrest and have to show “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” before getting a judge to sign off on property forfeiture. And a mandatory court review requires police to “show cause” for the action within 10 days of the asset seizure.
However, state and local law enforcement agencies found a loophole called Equitable Sharing that enables them to partner with the federal government to seize assets under federal law—and receive up to 80% of the proceeds. So there is still a way for police in Florida to seize your assets if the more stringent state law gets in the way. In fact, Florida leads the country in asset seizure, raking in more than $260 million a year.
Under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, any property linked to suspected unlawful activity is contraband and subject to seizure, including profits from illegal activities, such as gains from white-collar offenses.
Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act Attorneys Help Recover Money
An experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney can help protect people targeted by civil asset forfeiture. In some cases, an attorney can prevent civil asset seizure for those under investigation.
If your property has already been seized, a defense attorney can help you navigate the forfeiture process. The forfeiture process can be complex and time-consuming, and it’s important to have an experienced attorney on your side who can help you understand what to expect and will work to protect your rights and interests throughout the process.
The police must have probable cause to believe that your property is connected to criminal activity to seize it. If they don’t have probable cause, or if there are other legal issues with the seizure, your defense attorney may be able to have the seizure overturned.
If you are facing forfeiture proceedings under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, you need an aggressive and experienced defense attorney fighting to protect your rights. Talk to an Orlando asset forfeiture attorney at the Rivas Law Firm. Call 407-644-2466 for a free consultation.