The Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act (“Act”) is found at Florida Statutes Sections 932.701 to 932.706, which relates to the civil forfeiture and seizure of property that violates the Act.
There is a two-step process associated with the forfeiture procedure, as provided in the case of Department of Law Enforcement v. Real Property, 588 So. 2d (Fl. 1991). Specifically, the first step in the process is the seizing or other restraint on the property. The second step involves the forfeiture of the property itself, which occurs after a judge rules that the property can legally be forfeited. For this form of seizure, the property is believed to be associated with money laundering schemes or drug-related crimes. There are instances where property or money is not connected with a criminal offense yet it is subject to a forfeiture.
Notwithstanding, if your money, property, or vehicle was seized and is subject to forfeiture, you should hire a skilled Florida Seizure and Forfeiture Defense Attorney to help you to protect your legal rights. At Musca Law, our attorneys fight against seizure and forfeiture actions throughout the state of Florida. Allow us to file a claim to have your property returned to you if you were served with a “Motion for Final Judgement of Forfeiture” or a “Summons and Forfeiture Complaint.” Contact us today at 888-484-5057 to learn more about how we can make a difference for you.
HB 889 and the Seizure of Property
As of July 1, 2016, (CS/SC/HB 889), the law related to seizures was amended in a variety of ways which relate to the actual seizure itself, the legal review of the seizure, and the procedures related to a forfeiture, as follows:
- Property cannot be seized until the owner of same is placed under arrest for a criminal offense that results in the property being deemed a contraband. Or, the criminal violation occurred and an arrest exception applies. Once one of the two elements are satisfied, the property can be subject to seizure if it shown that it violated the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act;
- The agency that seized the property must submit a petition with the court in order to obtain a ruling that the seizure was done lawfully;
- Upon a reasonable doubt that the property used violated the Act, the court will order that the seizure property be forfeited.
- Specified parties in agencies that seize property must examine settlements related to forfeitures, conduct yearly seizure reviews, and examine seizures to establish they were lawfully conducted. If there are deficiencies, the subject agencies must review and developed policies that promote the release of the seized property.
- The compensation and employment of law enforcement may not be contingent upon meeting seizure quotas.
- Law enforcement must be trained on conducting seizures and forfeitures of property;
- If law enforcement does not comply with the requirements for reporting may be subject to a maximum civil fine of up to $5,000; and
- The percentage of proceeds that are subject to donation to certain causes increases from fifteen percent to 25 percent if qualifying agencies obtain a minimum of $15,000 during the fiscal year.
What is the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act?
As noted above, the Act is codified at Florida Statutes Sections 932.701 through 932.706. Specifically. The Act provides for the seizure and forfeiture of property involved during the commission of a non-criminal and criminal offense. Contrabands and other property may be subject to seizure when used during or for the manifest intention of violating the Act. Broadly speaking, under the Act, contrabands include, without limitation, the following:
- Controlled substances, or any device, substance, currency, paraphernalia, or any other means of exchange that was utilized, or attempted to be utilized, in violation of any section of Florida Statutes Section 893. Or, any article for which the state can prove that it has the probable cause necessary to believe that there is a connection between the narcotics and seized articles.
- Lottery tickets, currency, gambling paraphernalia, or other means of exchange that violate Florida laws pertaining to gambling.
- Goods intended to be utilized or those that were used in violation of Florida’s tobacco and beverage laws.
- Motor vehicle fuel where the fuel tax was not paid.
- Any personal property that was intended to aid or aided an individual in committing a felony-related offense.
- Real property such as homes or land that were attempted to be used or were actually used in facilitating the commission of a felony.
- Motor vehicles that were sold in violation of Florida’s licensing laws as well as those driven in violation of same.
- Photos, recorded images, and films that violate Florida’s video voyeurism laws.
It is important to realize that whether any of the property stated above can be subject to forfeiture is contingent upon whether the prosecution can prove that it has probable cause to establish that there was a nexus between the contraband and the underlying criminal offense.
What Happens When Property or Contrabands are Forfeited?
Once contrabands or assets are subject to seizure or are forfeited, the seizing agency has the sole discretion of deciding what to do with the property or contraband. Accordingly, the seizing agency can do one of the following:
- Use the property itself.
- Sell the property at an auction involving the public. Real property must be subject to sale in a commercial manner.
- Salvage, trade, or transfer the property to a nonprofit organization or to the public.
Having Property Seized and/or Forfeited is a Very Serious Matter Requiring the Expertise of the Legal Professionals at Musca Law
Facing the potential of losing your property on a permanent basis can be devastating. By calling Musca Law today at 888-484-5057, you can speak with one of our dedicated and accomplished Florida Seizure and Forfeiture Defense Attorneys to learn more about your legal rights and options, as well as to discuss the potential defenses that may apply to your case. Don’t wait – contact Musca Law now to obtain the legal representation that you deserve.