Seizure for Forfeiture in Sarasota
The Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act (Act), Sections 932.701-932.7062, F.S., allows the seizure and forfeiture of property related to criminal and noncriminal law violations. The FAFA created procedures for law enforcement agencies to follow when seizing, forfeiting, and disposing of property authorized to be seized and forfeited.
In Florida, forfeiture proceedings use a two-step process:
- First, the property is seized or subjected to other types of initial restraint; and
- Second, the court determines whether the property can be legally forfeited.
As explained in Section 932.703, F.S., any contraband used in violation of the FCFA may be seized and forfeited subject to the provisions of the FCFA. Contraband under the FCFA might include the following types of property:
- U.S. Currency;
- motor vehicles;
- other personal property; or
- real property.
Under Section 932.701(2)(a)5. and 6., F.S., “contraband article” is defined to include any real property or personal property which was used or attempted to be used 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 act.
Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney for Sarasota County, FL
If your personal or real property was seized for forfeiture by law enforcement officers in Sarasota County, FL, contact an experienced civil asset forfeiture attorney at Sammis Law Firm.
We represent clients in state and federal forfeiture actions. We can help you respond to a “notice of seizure” by demanding an adversarial preliminary hearing or filing a verified claim.
Our offices are located in Tampa, Clearwater, and New Port Richey. We represent clients throughout the greater Tampa Bay area including Manatee County and Sarasota County, FL.
When Can Property Be Seized for Forfeiture in Florida?
A seizure may occur if the owner of the property is arrested for a criminal offense that forms the basis for determining that the property is a contraband article under s. 932.701, F.S. This type of forfeiture is known as criminal asset forfeiture.
Alternatively, asset forfeiture proceedings might occur under one or more of the following circumstances:
- the property is a monetary instrument such as U.S. Currency;
- the owner of the property agrees to be a confidential informant, although the seizing agency may not use the threat of property seizure or forfeiture to coerce the owner of the property to enter into a confidential informant agreement;
- the owner of the property had actual knowledge of the criminal activity;
- an individual not owning the property is arrested for a criminal offense that forms the basis for determining that the property is a contraband article under s. 932.701, F.S.;
- the owner of the property is a fugitive from justice or is deceased;
- the person in possession of the property denies ownership, and the owner of the property cannot be identified by means that are available to the employee or agent of the seizing agency at the time of the seizure; or
- the owner of the property cannot be identified after a diligent search.
What Happens to Property Seized for Forfeiture in Sarasota?
If you fail to respond to the “notice of seizure” by demanding an adversarial preliminary hearing or filing a verified claim, the agency might obtain title to the property. The agency might be required to pay off any liens or debts against the forfeited property first before distributing the remaining funds.
Under Section 932.7055, F.S., if a final judgment of forfeiture is entered, a seizing agency may do any of the following:
- Sell the property at a public auction or by sealed bid to the highest bidder;
- Retain the property for the seizing agency’s use; or
- Salvage, trade, or transfer the property to any public or nonprofit organization.
If the seizing agency is a state agency, the remaining proceeds are deposited into the General Revenue Fund, although most law enforcement agencies have a trust fund specifically designated to receive the proceeds from forfeiture, Those law enforcement agencies with a specifically designed trust fund include:
- a State Attorney’s Office;
- Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE);
- a school board security agency that employs law enforcement officers;
- the State University System police departments;
- Department of Environmental Protection;
- Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco;
- Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles;
- Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission;
- Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service;
- Department of Military Affairs;
- Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Department of Legal Affairs;
- Division of Investigative; and
- Forensic Services in the Department of Financial Services.
Under Section 932.7055(5)(a), F.S., when the seizing agency is a county or municipal law enforcement agency, the remaining proceeds are deposited into a special law enforcement trust fund. As explained by Section 932.7055(5), F.S., proceeds from forfeiture may not be used to meet the normal operating expenses of a law enforcement agency.
Instead, those funds may be used to fund:
- school resource officers;
- crime prevention;
- safe neighborhood;
- drug abuse education;
- prevention programs; or
- other law enforcement purposes, including:
- defraying the cost of protracted or complex investigations;
- providing additional equipment or expertise;
- purchasing automated external defibrillators for law enforcement vehicles; and
providing matching funds to obtain federal grants.
If the seizing agency is a state agency, the proceeds from forfeiture are deposited into the General Revenue Fund. See Section 932.7055(6), F.S.
Read more about seizures for forfeiture in Bradenton and Manatee County, FL.
This article was last updated on Thursday, June 15, 2023.