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Seizure for Forfeiture by Broward Sheriff’s Office

If you received a notice of seizure from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, then contact an experienced attorney at Sammis Law Firm. For forfeitures at the state level, the officer who seized the property is required to provide you with a receipt that might use the term “forfeiture hold.”

Then the agency that seized the property must send you a “notice of seizure” that explains your right to an adversarial preliminary hearing. The notice says it is “not necessary to request an adversarial preliminary hearing,” but if you want to get the property back quickly, then demanding the APH within the fifteen (15) day deadline is always better.

You should act quickly because you only have fifteen (15) days to file a demand for the adversarial preliminary hearing (APH). If you miss that fifteen (15) day deadline, then it becomes more difficult to get the property back. We can help you demand the APH hearing even if you didn’t receive a notice or signed a waiver disclaiming any interest in the property.

At the adversarial preliminary hearing, we can help you contest the legality of your initial detention and the warrantless seizure of your property. If you prevail at the hearing, then the court will order the Broward County Sheriff’s Office to return the property immediately and you might be awarded attorney fees.

An attorney can also help you obtain any surveillance video showing the way you were initially detained. For instance, such surveillance videos are available at Broward County’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) or North Perry Airport (HWO).

Lawyers for Forfeiture Seizures in Broward County, FL

After officers with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office confiscate your U.S. Currency or other valuable property, give us a call to fight the case. In these cases, we can help you show that the initial detention was illegal, the officers had no valid basis to conduct a search without a warrant, or such illegally gathered evidence should be suppressed or excluded.

Contact us to find out more about your right to file a demand for an adversarial preliminary hearing before a circuit court judge to determine whether there is probable cause to seize the subject properly.

We can represent you if the sheriff’s office files a forfeiture complaint filed within 45 days of the seizure. If a complaint is filed, we can help you file a claim, answer, motion to suppress, and motion to dismiss.

We can help you obtain the seizing agent’s report and other discovery in the forfeiture proceeding, including the right to question the witnesses for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office under oath during depositions.

You have a right to have a jury determine whether there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the subject property is contraband subject to forfeiture to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, and the right to require the entry of a Final Judgment of Forfeiture on the subject property.

Call us at 813-250-0500.


Filing the Demand for the Adversarial Preliminary Hearing

If you received a notice of seizure after a deputy with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office confiscated your property for a civil asset forfeiture proceeding, the notice will explain when, where, and how to file the demand. We follow those instructions on the notice of seizure carefully.

The notice might list the following address:

Forfeiture Section of the Legal Department
Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO)
2601 W. Broward Blvd.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312

After we file the demand for the adversarial preliminary hearing, an attorney that works for the Confiscation/Forfeiture Unit of the Office of the General Counsel for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office will call us. During that first phone call, the BSO attorney will usually ask us to delay the hearing outside of the statutory ten (10) day deadline. We rarely agree to waive that ten (10) deadline.

Read more about forfeiture seizures at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport by BSO.


Forfeiture Seizures at the Airport by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office

What happens if you bring a large amount of U.S. Currency to the Fort Lauderdale/ Hollywood International Airport (FLL) located at 200 Terminal Drive Fort Lauderdale, FL 33315?

Although it is not illegal to bring a large amount of cash to the airport, it might be seized if law enforcement officers with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office suspect it is involved in drug trafficking or money laundering. Alternatively, the money might be seized before or after an international flight if any amount over $10,000 was not disclosed to Customs and Border Protection on the FinCEN 105 form.

How is the money discovered? Most of the time, a screener working for TSA will discover that the passenger is carrying a large amount of cash while the passenger goes through the security checkpoint. The scanning equipment can detect the amount of currency on a passenger’s person or luggage. TSA is not allowed to seize money at the airport. In fact, TSA is not even allowed to detain the passenger merely for possessing a large amount of U.S. Currency. 

Instead, the TSA agent might secretly contact a detective with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office serving on the Strategic Investigations Division of the Narcotics Interdiction Task Force (also known as “NITF”). The BSO NITF detectives conduct “airport interdictions” at the airport. 

After getting the secret tip from the TSA agent, the detective will then head to the gate looking for this passenger for the purpose of seizing the cash in their possession for forfeiture.  Instead of admitting that the TSA screener gave a secret tip, the NITF Detectives might claim they just happened to be conducting “random consensual encounters” at the FLL Terminal.


What is Broward’s Narcotics Interdiction Task Force?

What is the NITF? The Narcotics Interdiction Task Force is a multi-agency task force administered by the Broward Sheriff’s Office task force. The task force is comprised of local law enforcement agencies working in conjunction with state and federal law enforcement agencies. 

The task force is responsible for the detection, investigation, and prosecution of crimes occurring at airports, seaports, and parcel shipment facilities, including narcotics offenses, unlicensed money transmitting, and money laundering.

Detectives on the NITF are sworn law enforcement officers with the United States Department of Homeland Security. All NITF personnel dress in plain clothes while working undercover, with no visible police identifications, guns, or radios being displayed.


How Does the Broward County Sheriff’s Office Uses a K9 Drug Dog?

BSO uses a narcotic detector K9 handler who might be asked to deploy his K9. The K9 handlers are required to attend detector dog training along with other courses in narcotic detection. The K9 handler is also supposed to attend detector dog training on a weekly basis with other Broward County narcotic detector canines and handlers.

During the weekly training, the K9 must be shown to have been consistent by alerting to the illegal drugs that he is trained to detect and not to the masking agents/distracters that are associated with the packaging of these drugs. BSO requires the K9 to be proofed off currency during weekly maintenance K-9 training, although the K9 is not specifically trained for currency detection.

The K9 employed with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office typically completes a five-week narcotic detector dog course. The dogs are often certified by the United States Police Canine Association. 

The K9 is trained to detect cocaine, marijuana, heroin, hashish, methamphetamine, and their derivatives. Additionally, the K9 is continuously trained with various amounts (small to large) of the phantom odors of each illegal drug that he is trained to detect. BSO claims that various training methods are utilized in such a manner in order to maintain “the highest level of proficiency in detection for the K9.” 

The training is aimed at ensuring that the K9 alerts to the odors of the illegal drugs that he is trained to detect without being influenced by other factors. 

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office will claim that service records (Training Logs and Canine Usage Logs) are maintained throughout the law enforcement service lifetime of the K9 and must be kept up to date.

The K9s usually graduate from detector dog school. For this reason, BSO will claim that the K9 has been proven reliable in narcotics investigations and has detected hundreds of pounds of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine to date during numerous live searches.

During these investigations, the detectives will often claim that the K9 indicated a positive alert for the presence of narcotics odor on a passenger’s luggage and sometimes to the money itself. 

The courts tend to be skeptical about the use of a K9 for several reasons. First, the handlers often neglect to keep proper records on “false positive” alerts. Second, most of the alerts at the airport are “false positive” alerts to phantom smells which can never be confirmed by the handler when no drugs are actually found. For these reasons, the alerts have little value.

Third, what does it matter that the K9 can alert to phantom smells of marijuana when marijuana is legally used throughout Florida and the rest of the United States. Such phantom smells would be common and not particularly helpful for the probable cause determination. Fourth, the dogs have no formal training on currency detection.

Nevertheless, the detectives with the BSO use the dogs because it helps them establish “probable cause” to seize the money.


Narcotics Interdictions at the Airport in Broward County

What happens when money is seized at Broward County’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) or North Perry Airport (HWO)? First, the detectives will approach the passenger and present his law enforcement credentials and identify himself as a BSO Detective. Then the detective is trained to inform the passenger that a narcotics K9 alerted to his person or suitcase.

The detective will ask the passenger for their boarding pass and driver’s license. The detective might also ask the passenger if the bag belongs to them and if they packed it. At this point, the detective might ask to search and claim that the passenger gave free and voluntary consent.

Why is consent important? In most of these cases, the officer is not allowed to seize the money without a warrant unless the officer as free and voluntary consent. For this reason, some passengers simply say: “I do not answer personal questions. I do not consent to searches. I am leaving now so that I can catch my flight.” Once the officer realizes that the person will not consent, the officer might let the person go on their way and end the detention.

Why doesn’t everyone just remain silent and walk away? The detectives are very good at using their body language and words to persuade the passenger to “consent” to a search by continuing to increase the pressure put on the passenger. But if the officer continues the detention without consent, then all evidence gathered thereafter is subject to being suppressed. For that reason, the person has the right to continue to not answer questions or to refuse to consent to a search throughout the rest of the encounter.

The detectives might take a digital photograph of the driver’s license before handing it back to the passenger. Or the detective might keep the driver’s license as the investigation continues. The detective might ask the passenger if there was any reason why a narcotics K9 would alert to the suitcase with the hopes that the passenger will admit to previously smoking marijuana (when no response to that question is required).

These officers never read Miranda warnings because they have no intention of making an arrest. Their main goal is to seize the money and Miranda warnings are not always required in forfeiture cases.

Also, by accusing the person of trafficking drugs in the suitcase (which the passenger knows to be false) then it increases the likelihood that the passenger will say: “Go ahead and search because that is a false allegation.” The better course of action might be to continue to say: “I don’t consent to searches” each time consent is requested.

Other questions the BSO officer might ask include:

  • Are you traveling for business or pleasure?
  • How long is the trip?
  • When did you purchase the ticket?
  • Are you traveling with anyone else?
  • Have you arranged for a hotel when you get to your destination?
  • Are you renting a vehicle?
  • Where do you work?
  • What is the name and phone number of your employer?
  • Did you file your taxes last year?
  • How much income did you claim on your taxes?
  • Who does this money belong to?
  • When was it last in the bank?

The detectives might even ask the passenger to pull up bank records on their cell phone and then seize the cell phone as evidence. The detective might claim that they can also smell an odor of marijuana emanating from the passenger or his luggage. 

The detectives will note how the U.S. Currency is packaged or concealed and whether rubber bands were used. The officers will note the demonizations of each bill. 

The detectives might then claim that the K9 alerted to the money itself and claim that the positive alert is an indication that the currency was recently in close proximity to a significant amount of illegal narcotics.


Reasons Not to Answer Questions

One of the main reasons not to answer questions is because the agent will use any statement against you. On the other hand, “self-serving” statements are often discounted and might even be inadmissible in court.

Additionally, the BSO detective might use the fact that you made statements against you by claiming that you became “extremely nervous” when talking about the origin of the currency and what it was supposed to be utilized for. 

We often see allegations in the seizing agent’s report that the passenger’s hands were visibly shaking while speaking with the detective. The detective might claim that the passenger was very vague about questions relating to transporting the currency and was unable to provide any documentation or any set travel itinerary as to where he was going to stay.

The detective will claim the passenger was displaying various signs of deception, gave vague answers, or showed unusual body language, including a defensive body posture with arms braced and crossed and constant fidgeting. 

Your attorney can file a motion to obtain surveillance video from the airport within 30 days of the seizure. The surveillance video often contradicts allegations made by law enforcement officers in this regard.

The detective will claim to have extensive training in the field of narcotics, interviewing subjects, and recognizing common signs of deception involving subjects who are untruthful. In Broward County, the detectives often present the passenger with a BSO seized property notice and ownership disclaimer form to waive any interest in the property. 

For all of these reasons, it is often better to refuse to answer questions by saying: “I do not answer personal questions.” Then remain silent or ask if you are free to leave.


What Happens to the Money Seized by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office?

After seizing the money for forfeiture, the detective will verify the currency on scene and seal it into a Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) clear plastic self-sealing evidence bag with a particular serial number while in the presence of another officer. The detective will then transport the U.S. Currency to the BSO Evidence Unit where they conduct an official count.

The complaint will often allege:

“Based upon the training and experience of the NITF Detectives with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, it is common for persons with large amounts of currency in hand to travel out of the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport to known source states involved in marijuana distribution, specifically California.

Once the traveler makes it to the source state, they purchase large quantities of narcotics using the bulk currency in hand and ship it back to the state of Florida via a parcel facility such as FedEx, UPS, U.S. Postal Service or even travel with the narcotics in their luggage.

This type of activity is consistent with narcotics trafficking. Transportation of currency in this pretext is illegal and violates Florida’s Anti­ Money Laundering Statutes in Chapter 896, Florida Statutes.

Air transportation of currency earned from narcotics sales is more difficult to trace by law enforcement and leaves less of a “paper trail” than conventional methods of transmitting currency by personal check, money order, cashier’s check, and other bank wiring services-all of which are more secure, less burdensome, and more cost effective then purchasing a plane ticket and traveling several hours across the country.

Wiring or obtaining a cashier’s check at a financial institution for a large amount of currency would have generated a “currency transaction report” (CTR) which requires identification and provides notification to the Federal government of the transaction.

A CTR is a report that U.S. financial institutions are required to file with Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (Fin CEN) for each deposit, withdrawal, exchange of currency, or other payment or transfer, by, through or to the financial institution which involves a transaction in currency of more than $10,000.

Financial Institutions, including money service businesses, must complete a Currency Transaction Report, or CTR, for all currency transactions in excess of $10,000.00. See 31 U.S.C. §5313; 31 C.F.R. § 103.22.

Notifying local or Federal law enforcement authorities of a substantial currency exchange is something those who deal in narcotics or illicit proceeds want to avoid at all costs.

The passenger does not have a license to transport currency as a money service business in violation of Title 18 U.S.C. § 1960 and Florida Statute. §560.125.”


Forfeiture Settlement Agreement with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office

In some cases, the attorney for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office might engage in negotiations or agree to enter a settlement agreement before the APH. The settlement agreement might provide:

SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

THIS SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT is made by and between GREGORY TONY, as Sheriff of Broward County, Florida (hereinafter referred to as “SHERIFF”) and ______ (hereinafter referred to as “CLAIMANT”) on this ___ day of _____, 2022.

WHEREAS, SHERIFF and CLAIMANT agree that SHERIFF may pursue forfeiture of the property described in paragraph l, below, pursuant to the provisions set forth in the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, Section 932.701, et seq., Florida Statutes; and

WHEREAS, SHERIFF and CLAIMANT, acknowledge the benefits inuring to each other by avoiding forfeiture litigation, and in consideration of the mutual covenants and promises which are herein contained.

  1. That the property, which is the subject matter of this litigation and this Agreement is as follows: $______ in U.S. Currency.
  2. That as to the personal property described above, some was seized by Sheriff’s deputies on or about ______________ under Broward Sheriff’s Office Case No. _______ pursuant to the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.
  3. That as to the subject personal property as described above, CLAIMANT is the only person who has made a bona fide claim thereto.
  4. That SHERIFF agrees to surrender whatever right, title, or interest SHERIFF may have by operation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act in and to the personal property as described below:$______ in U.S. currency (which said sum constitutes a part of the subject currency as described above, the payment of which shall be made no later than thirty (30) days following the execution of the settlement agreement and made payable to the order of: ___________.
  5. That CLAIMANT agrees to surrender whatever right, title, or interest CLAIMANT may have in or to the balance of the subject currency as described above, to wit:  $______ in U.S. currency.
  6. CLAIMANT agrees that the subject currency in the listed amount is to be forfeited to the BSO LAW ENFORCEMENT TRUST FUND pursuant to Chapter 932, Florida Statutes (2021).
  7. CLAIMANT hereby acknowledges that this Agreement is being entered into in lieu of and prior to the conclusion of the forfeiture proceedings.
  8. CLAIMANT understands that if any property subject to this agreement has been listed as evidence in any criminal proceeding or was seized and is being held as evidence in anticipation of any criminal proceeding, CLAIMANT expressly acknowledges the following:
    • Right to an adversarial preliminary hearing before a circuit court judge to determine whether there is probable cause to seize the subject properly;
    • Right to have a forfeiture complaint filed within 45 days of the seizure;
    • Right to discovery in the forfeiture proceeding, including the right to question SHERIFF’s witnesses;
    • Right to have a jury determine whether there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the subject property is contraband subject to forfeiture to the SHERIFF; and
    • Right to require the entry of a Final Judgment of Forfeiture on the subject property.
  9. CLAIMANT knows and understands that Florida Statutes Section 925.11 and 925.12 provide for post-sentencing DNA testing of physical evidence, under specific circumstances;
  10. CLAIMANT expressly waives his right to petition the court for post-sentencing DNA testing of the property subject to this agreement;
  11. Broward Sheriff’s Office does not make any representations as to whether the physical evidence subject to this agreement contains or does not contain DNA that could exonerate the CLAIMANT in an ongoing criminal proceeding or future criminal proceeding involving the property subject to this agreement.
  12. CLAIMANT acknowledges that CLAIMANT has a right to representation when entering into this Agreement and hereby knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily enters into this Agreement on the advice of counsel.
  13. CLAIMANT hereby acknowledges that CLAIMANT has a right to have this Settlement Agreement reviewed by a mediator or arbitrator, and further acknowledges waiving this right.
  14. That CLAIMANT agrees to hold harmless and indemnify SHERIFF or any of SHERIFF’S deputies, attorneys, employees, servants, agents. or officers against any and all damages, actions, suits, claims, or demands of whatsoever kind made by or on behalf of any person as a result of SHERIFF seizing, retaining and/or returning possession of any of the above-described personal property to CLAIMANT, including. but not limited to, reasonable
    attorney’s fees and travel and investigative expenses caused by or related to such damages, actions, suits, claims, or demands.
  15. The parties understand and agree that this Settlement Agreement is for the sole purpose of avoiding the expense and uncertainties in any litigation and that it is not to reflect on the strengths or weaknesses of any related criminal charges either currently pending or which may be brought in the future, and as such Claimant agrees that the return of a portion of the seized property to CLAIMANT is not evidence that such property is not connected to criminal activity.
  16. By entering into this agreement, the Claimant makes no admission of guilt or liability.

Any such settlement agreement is reached between the Claimant, the Claimant’s attorney, and the GREGORY TONY SHERIFF OF BROWARD COUNTY or the attorney acting as Assistant General Counsel for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.


This article was last updated on Thursday, June 30, 2022.

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