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Seizures for Forfeiture by Tampa Police Department

What happens after an officer with the Tampa Police Department seizes your property and gives you notice that they intend to keep the property through a forfeiture action? Although you can represent yourself, the law is extremely complicated.

A civil asset forfeiture attorney at Sammis Law Firm, P.A., can help you fight for the quick return of your property including a seized vehicle, firearm, or U.S. Currency. We often take these cases on a contingency fee basis, which means you do not have to pay any attorney fees or costs unless we get your property back.

Find out why you should ALWAYS file and litigate a demand for an Adversary Preliminary Hearing (APD) immediately after the seizure. If you don’t make that demand within fifteen (15) days, then you forever lose the right to that preliminary hearing.

We can demand the hearing for you the same day that you retain us which often helps us negotiate the return of your property. If the property is not returned immediately, we can fight for the return of the property at the adversary preliminary hearing (APH).

If you lose the preliminary hearing (APH) or fail to even request it, then TPD can drag the case out for months or years. An attorney can help you speed up the process and protect your rights during every stage of the proceeding.

Your attorney can contact the attorneys in TPD’s Forfeiture Unit to explain all of the reasons why the property should be returned to the person it was taken from or an innocent third party owner or spouse. We also represent bona fide lien holders.

Don’t make a statement to TPD’s Asset Forfeiture Investigator because any statement you make might be used against you later. The seizing officer or detectives are also trained to obtain post-Miranda statements implicating the property.

In those cases in which the violator is not the owner, the detective is trained to get statements from the owner to show that they were knowledgeable about the use of the property by the violator.

When TPD seizes U.S. currency, the officers are trained to ask the violator if they are employed and where they are employed. The officers might contact your employer allegedly in an attempt to ascertain your personal income or discredit in order to tie the violator to any story regarding the currency at the scene.

When the currency is seized, the suspect’s statements are usually the only way for TPD to show that the currency was gained from or intended to be used illegally in any felony offense. Don’t make a statement until after you have spoken to an attorney about the case.

Attorney for Seizures for Forfeiture by TPD

If an office with the Tampa Police Department (TDP) seized your property and provided you with a Notice of Seizure Form (TPD 62), then contact an experienced asset forfeiture attorney in Tampa, FL, as soon as possible.

In some cases, the notice of seizure form will be sent to you via certified mail from the Evidence Control Section.

If the notice of seizure form was not provided to you within the prescribed time period, then Tampa Police Department can lose the case on that basis. We can represent any person with a claim to the property seized.

Call (813) 250-0500.


TPD’s Standard Operating Procedures for Asset Forfeitures

One of the best ways to understand asset forfeiture actions by the Tampa Police Department is to learn more about their standard operating procedures, SOP 337 dated September of 2014 which supersedes SOP 337 dated in March of 2007.

Keep in mind that civil forfeiture can occur at any time during the investigative process up until the final disposition of the case.

The standard operating procedures were created to establish clear and concise procedures for the lawful seizure and forfeiture of currency, cash monies, vessels, motor vehicles, aircraft, real property, and other forfeitable items in compliance with F.S. §932.701 – §706, which is known as the “Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act”.


Definition of Contraband Articles under the Forfeiture Act

Florida Statute §932.701 defines “Contraband Article” as follows:

  • Any controlled substance as defined in Chapter 893 or any substance, device, paraphernalia, or currency or other means of exchange that was used, attempted to be used or was intended to be used in violation of any provision of Chapter 893; if the totality of the facts establish probable cause that a nexus exists between the article seized and the narcotics activity, whether or not the use can be traced to a specific narcotics transaction.
  • Any gambling paraphernalia, lottery tickets, money, and currency used or intended to be used in violation of the gambling laws of the state (including misdemeanor offenses);
  • Any equipment, liquid or solid, which is being used or intended to be used in violation of the beverage or tobacco laws of the state (including misdemeanor offenses);
  • Any motor fuel upon which the motor fuel tax has not been paid as required by law (including misdemeanor offenses);
  • Any personal property, including, but not limited to, any vessel, aircraft, item, object, tool, substance, device, weapon, machine, vehicle of any kind, money, securities, or currency, which has been or is actually employed as an instrumentality in the commission of, or in aiding or abetting in the commission of, any felony whether or not comprising an element of the felony, or which is acquired by proceeds obtained as a result of a violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.
  • Any real property, including any right, title, leasehold, or other interest in the whole of any lot or tract of land, which was used, is being used, or was attempted to be used as an instrumentality in the commission of, or in aiding or abetting any felony, or which is acquired by proceeds obtained as a result of a violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.
  • Motor vehicle offered for sale in violation of s. 320.28.
  • Any motor vehicle used during the course of committing an offense in violation of s. 322.34(9)(a).
  • Any photograph, film, or other recorded image, including an image recorded on videotape, a compact disk, digital tape, or fixed disk, that is recorded in violation of s. 810.145 and is possessed for the purpose of amusement, entertainment, sexual arousal, gratification, or profit, or for the purpose of degrading or abusing another person.
  • Motor vehicle used in drag racing in violation of s. 316.191, provided the person charged is the owner of the vehicle and has prior conviction for racing within 5 years of the date of the offense.

Prohibited Acts that Subject Property to Forfeiture

The illegal acts that subject property to forfeiture under Florida Statute §932.702 include the following:

  • To transport, carry, or convey any contraband article in, upon, or by means of any vessel, motor vehicle, or aircraft.
  • To conceal or possess any contraband article in or upon any vessel, motor vehicle, aircraft, or real property.
  • To use any vessel, motor vehicle, aircraft, other personal property or real property to facilitate the transportation, carriage, conveyance, concealment, receipt, possession, purchase, sale, barter, exchange, or giving away of any contraband article.
  • To conceal or possess or use any contraband article as an instrumentality in the commission of or in aiding or abetting in the commission of any felony or violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.
  • To acquire real or personal property by the use of proceeds obtained in violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.

Under F.S. §932.703 any contraband article, vessel, motor vehicle, aircraft, other personal property, or real property used in violation of any provision of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, or in, upon, or by means of which any violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act has taken or is taking place, maybe seized and shall be forfeited subject to the provisions of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.


Examples of Illegal Acts that Subject Property to Forfeiture

The most common examples of unlawful acts that might subject property to civil forfeiture include:

  • A vehicle is utilized to transport narcotics or to go to and from the scene of a narcotics transaction (the vehicle is the facilitating contraband article);
  • A vehicle that was purchased with proceeds of illegal activities;
  • Any vehicle used in the commission of an armed robbery, burglary, sexual assault or aother felony;
  • A vessel, motor vehicle, or aircraft used to transport, conceal, or possess contraband articles such as felony stolen property, gambling paraphernalia, untaxed liquor, cigarettes, or motor fuel or is used as a weapon in a felony assault or battery.
  • Tools and equipment used to dismantle stolen motor vehicles, boats, or aircraft.
  • Any vessel, motor vehicle, or aircraft used to convey contraband, to transport the seller or purchaser of contraband to the site of the transaction, or to transport property (cash, stocks, gold/silver, etc.) which has been, is being, or is intended to be exchanged for any controlled substance.
  • A warehouse, business, or residence used to store or distribute narcotics or stolen merchandise.
  • A vehicle is being driven by a confirmed felony habitual traffic offender.
  • An operator, whose license is currently suspended or revoked as the result of a previous conviction for DUI, is arrested for driving under the influence.
  • A motor vehicle is used for racing by a person within 5 years of the date of a prior conviction for racing under s. 316.191; if the person is racing is the owner of the vehicle.

Forfeiture Actions Involving U.S. Currency

U.S. currency is frequently used in felony transactions and is often considered to be the proceeds of a felony offense. Examples of money being used in a way prohibited under the forfeiture action that are listed in the SOP include the following:

  • A confidential informant makes several controlled purchases of marijuana from a suspect at his residence. A search warrant is obtained for the residence. A search of the residence reveals several pounds of marijuana, various items of drug paraphernalia and $10,000.00 cash. The suspect cannot provide a legitimate explanation or source for the $10,000.00. The cash is subject to forfeiture.
  • Generally, if probable cause exists to believe that currency will be used in a narcotics transaction or is the proceeds of a narcotics transaction, the currency is subject to forfeiture.

Property commonly used in the commission of a felony is subject to seizure with proper documentation establishing a connection between the use of the property and the crime including:

  • Jewelry – quite often received in exchange for narcotics, or purchased with the proceeds from illicit crimes;
  • Firearms – used in narcotics transactions, and other felonies, as a means of protection;
  • Cellular or mobile telephone or other communication device(s) or monitor(s) used to aid, alert or assist in the purchase or sale of controlled substances, etc.; and
  • Grow equipment, scales, or safes.

TPD Procedures in Asset Forfeiture Actions

The Standard Operating Procedures used by the Tampa Police Department require the seizing officer or detective to take certain steps in each case. First, the seizing officer or detective with TPD must determine whether the property is contraband as defined or in the case of a vessel, motor vehicle, aircraft, or real property, whether it was used for a prohibited act as defined.

Second, the seizing officer or detective must secure a seizure warrant prior to the seizure when the seizure of property is the result of past activity and no probable cause presently exists to search.

Third, the seizing officer or detective must provide a Notice of Seizure Form (TPD 62) to all possible claimants after filling out the form and obtaining the claimant’s signature. The claimant(s) will keep the yellow copy, the white copy will be returned to the Forfeiture Unit no later than the following day. The Tampa Police Department has a box in the Evidence Control Section for this purpose.

Fourth, a pink copy of the notice of seizure form will be turned in with the original report to Records. The notice form will be provided to the claimant(s) at the time of seizure (if possible). If the yellow copy is not given to all parties, you are to have it sent via certified mail through the Evidence Control Section prior to the end of the shift.

In any case, it must be provided to the claimant(s) within five days. If TPD fails to provide notice within the prescribed time period it might result in loss of the forfeiture case.

Fifth, the seizing officer or detective must determine, if possible, whether the violator owns the property and, if not, identify the registered owner or title holder by name, address and telephone numbers and have a notice signed by them or sent certified mail to them. Only property subject to actual forfeiture (not drugs, recovered buy money, recovered stolen property, etc.) should be listed on the notice form.

Sixth, the seizing officer or detective must document any information obtained regarding any lienholder, person, or lending institution that has any financial interest in the property.

Seventh, when filling out the impound report (TPD 203), the seizing officer or detective must place a hold for the Forfeiture Unit by completing the impound report including TPD number, name of person(s) arrested and offense(s). If the person doing the impound is not the case agent, put the name of the case agent at the bottom of the detail section of the impound report.

The impound/seizure officer’s supervisor will, after approval of the officer’s report, cause a complete copy of the Incident Report (including any impound report) to be delivered to the Forfeiture Unit within seven calendar days following the seizure.


The TPD Forfeiture Unit

According to the standard operating procedures, the forfeiture unit of the Tampa Police Department is required to do the following:

  • Be responsible for follow-up actions and the completion of forfeiture procedures.
  • Prepare the necessary documents for forfeiture including negotiated settlements or releases.
  • Notify the Assistant Chief of Investigations and Support of forfeited property that can be utilized by the department for assignment of the property.
  • Ensure that a standardized course of training for basic recruits and continuing education is implemented on an annual basis in accordance with F.S. §932.706. Such standardized courses may be implemented as part of department in-service training.
  • The Special Support Division commander shall, after notice from the Forfeiture Unit that property has been forfeited to and accepted by the department, and at the direction of the chief of police, cause the property to be released from the Evidence Control Section and lawfully disposed of or placed into use with the proper inventory controls.
  • The collection, disbursement, and audit of funds resulting from seizure and forfeiture of contraband property shall be in accordance with SOP 626.

Seizures and Forfeitures in the City of Tampa

The phone number to the Tampa Police Department Impound Lot is (813) 242-5328. Pursuant to 713.78, the City of Tampa may seek to impose a statutory lien pursuant.

If your asset was seized by the City of Tampa in Florida, the case will be handled by the Forfeiture Unit for the City of Tampa Police Department that reports directly to the assistant city attorney, who serves as police legal advisor.

The phone number for the City of Tampa Legal Bureau is (813) 276-3769, the phone number for the City of Tampa Forfeiture Unit is (813) 276-3767.

In 2003 alone, a total of $1,236,561.29 was placed in the Law Enforcement Trust Fund through seizures and forfeitures.


Sample TPD Forfeiture Settlement Agreement and Joint Stipulation

If you settle a forfeiture action with Tampa Police Department, they might request that you sign a settlement agreement that provides:

SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT AND JOINT STIPULATION
IN RE: FORFEITURE OF [insert description of seized property (U.S. Currency, firearm, vehicle)]
CLAIMANT:
TPD CASE NO.:

THIS SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT AND JOINT STIPULATION (“AGREEMENT”) is made and entered into between the TAMPA POLICE DEPARTMENT (“TPD”), an agency of the City of Tampa, Florida, a municipal corporation existing under the laws of the State of Florida, and ____ (“CLAIMANT”).

PURPOSE

THIS AGREEMENT is made as a compromise between the parties for the complete and final settlement of their claims, differences, and causes of action with respect to the dispute described below and pursuant to The Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act (“FCFA”), sections 932.701-932.7062, Florida Statutes.

STATEMENT OF DISPUTE

TPD asserts a right to seizure and forfeiture of property, to wit: [[insert description of seized property (U.S. Currency, firearm, vehicle)  (“said property” or “the property”), which was seized on [[date]] after (CLAIMANT) was arrested for a criminal offense that forms the basis for determining that the property is a contraband article under the FCFA, or an exception to the arrest requirement applies.

CLAIMANT claims sole property interest in the property. TPD contends that the property was and is subject to seizure and forfeiture, pursuant to the FCFA.

A Notice of Violation of the FCFA with information on the right to request an Adversarial Preliminary Hearing was provided to all persons entitled to notice and CLAIMANT. If applicable, a probable cause application was submitted and an order finding probable cause was entered in accordance with section 932.703(2), Florida Statutes.

In lieu of further forfeiture proceedings, the parties have agreed to enter into a full and final settlement concerning the property. The parties now desire to reach a full and final compromise and to settle all matters and all causes of action arising out of the facts and claims as set forth herein.

TERMS OF SETTLEMENT

In consideration of the mutual covenants set forth herein and in lieu of further forfeiture proceedings, the parties agree to resolve this matter as follows:

  1. CLAIMANT agrees to: Pay the total sum of $___ by cashier’s check or money order made payable to the City of Tampa and delivered to the Tampa Police Department Impound Lot, 110 S. 34th St., Tampa, which will be distributed as follows: $155.00 will be applied to towing fee; $40.00 will be applied to administrative fee; and $305.00 will be deposited into LETF.
  2. TPD agrees to transfer and deliver said vehicle.
  3. TPD agrees to waive the cost of storage and to release any liens for towing and storage for said vehicle as long as said vehicle is picked up by [date].
  4. CLAIMANT agrees:
    • i) that there will be no further forfeiture proceedings in this matter;
    • ii) to waive all rights and notices under the FCFA;
    • iii) that should CLAIMANT fail to recover said vehicle in accordance with the terms above, that no further proceedings under forfeiture will occur;
    • iv) to waive all rights and interest to the vehicle should CLAIMANT fail to recover the vehicle as described above;
    • v) that failure to comply with the terms above will result in all towing and storage fees being applied from the date of the impoundment; and
    • vi) that failure to comply with the terms above will subject the vehicle to sale at an auction in order to recover fees for towing and storage in accordance with section 713.78, Florida Statutes.
  5.  The parties agree to forego any legal proceedings for forfeiture of the property and waive all claims, rights, or notices under the FCFA and civil causes of action.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Each Party hereto acknowledges and warrants that the benefits received by that Party under this Agreement constitute sufficient and adequate consideration for the Party’s obligations undertaken under this Agreement.

CLAIMANT represents and warrants to TPD that CLAIMANT is unaware of any other potential CLAIMANT included under the FCFA that are not a party to this Agreement; that CLAIMANT has not assigned, sold or transferred any ownership or possessory or title interest in the property to any person or entity not a party hereto; and that CLAIMANT has not transferred any claims or rights asserted in this forfeiture action to any person or entity not a party hereto.

CLAIMANT hereby waives: 1) an application, order, and probable cause determination by a court within 10 business days after the date of the seizure as provided under section 932.703(2), Florida Statutes; 2) an adversarial preliminary hearing as provided under section 932.703(3), Florida Statutes; 3) review of this agreement by the court, or a mediator or arbitrator as provided under section 932.704(7), Florida Statutes; and 4) the filing of a complaint as provided under section 932.704(4).

CLAIMANT understands there will be no court proceedings after the execution of this Agreement and this Agreement shall be final and irrevocable.

CLAIMANT freely and voluntarily agrees to enter into this Agreement.

CLAIMANT acknowledges that jeopardy has not attached to by virtue of entering into this Agreement, and CLAIMANT waives any successive or excessive punishment double jeopardy argument in any collateral criminal proceeding that is based upon entering into this Agreement.

TPD agrees that all claims, demands, rights, and causes of action that they have or may have against the CLAIMANT with respect to the above-described property are satisfied, discharged, and settled.

CLAIMANT shall indemnify and hold harmless the City of Tampa, TPD, and its representatives, employees, and agents, against any and all claims, costs, interest, attorney fees, storage fees, maintenance costs, or damages that may arise as a result of the seizure of the subject property by TPD or that may arise as a result of the release of possession of the property.

CLAIMANT understands and agrees that the City of Tampa, TPD, and its representatives, employees, and agents are not responsible for any loss of value, loss of use, or loss of interest for the seizure of the property.

CLAIMANT agrees that all claims and demands that CLAIMANT, CLAIMANT’S heirs, or assigns have or may have against the City of Tampa or TPD with respect to the above-described dispute are satisfied, discharged, and settled. CLAIMANT waives any and all claims, criminal or civil, against the City of Tampa or TPD for any damages or injuries, real or imagined, which may have occurred to date to CLAIMANT’S person or the property described herein.

This Agreement shall be governed by the law of the State of Florida, represents the complete agreement between the Parties, and may not be modified except in a writing approved and executed by the Party whose contractual duties or rights are affected and by a duly authorized representative of TPD. All warranties and representations contained herein shall survive the performance of this Agreement. Venue for any action for breach or enforcement of this Agreement shall be in the Circuit Court in and for Hillsborough County, Florida.

The Parties have entered into this Agreement freely and voluntarily, and all parties had the opportunity to retain counsel of their own choosing prior to entering into this Agreement.

CLAIMANT affirms that he or she is unrepresented by legal counsel in this civil forfeiture matter and is entering into this agreement freely and voluntarily without the benefit of counsel. All parties agree to be responsible for their own costs and attorneys’ fees in this matter.

CLAIMANT states that delay would adversely affect the settlement and requests the settlement be expedited with approval by the designated subordinate to the Chief of Police should the Chief be unavailable to approve the Agreement.

EFFECT OF AGREEMENT

THIS AGREEMENT shall be binding on and inure to the benefit of the parties and their respective legal representatives, successors, and assigns. Furthermore, this Agreement is intended to constitute an offer to compromise a civil claim as defined in section 90.408, Florida Statutes, and as such, the compromise, and any related conduct or statements, is intended to be inadmissible in any civil or criminal proceedings to prove liability.

This Agreement may be executed in counterparts and that facsimile or electronic copies shall be accepted as if originals.

This Agreement shall become effective upon the date of the last signature below. IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties have voluntarily executed this Agreement.

[Signature and Date: Owner Signature and Date]


Additional Resources

Audit of the TPD Forfeiture Fund – The best way to understand asset forfeiture cases in the Tampa Police Department is to follow the money and how they keep track of the way it is being distributed. For the fiscal year 2015, the City of Tampa had brought in approximately $1.3 million and spent approximately $4.2 million. Find the internal audit files of the Legal and Forfeiture Unit Law Enforcement Trust Fund which was published on February 12, 2016. Property subject to forfeiture by law enforcement officers with the Tampa Police Department is recorded in the City of Tampa’s State fund. The use of those funds is subject to the restrictions and the guidance of the Forfeiture Act. Read more about TPD’s problems when complying with City Ordinance Chapter 2, Section 2-46 that requires departments “to create and maintain all records with adequate and proper documentation of the organization, together with the functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions, of the department.”


This article was last updated on Friday, July 24, 2021.

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