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Forfeiture Actions in Manatee County, FL

In the Circuit Court for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit in Manatee County and Sarasota County, Administrative Order No. 2016-15, sets out the uniform procedures for forfeiture of personal property.

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm are familiar with the tactics used by law enforcement agencies in Manatee County or Sarasota County, FL, when they seize for forfeiture U.S. Currency (cash or money), motor vehicles, or vessels.

The Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act sets forth the procedural requirements governing the forfeiture of contraband articles in Florida Statute §§ 932.701-932.7062.

In addition, the courts in Manatee County have filed Administrative Order No. 2016-15 that provides the procedures for the uniform disposition of forfeiture proceedings in order to ensure consistency amongst all seizing agencies within the Twelfth Judicial Circuit.

The law enforcement agencies that seize cash or other property in Manatee County, FL, include the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, the Bradenton Police Department, the Bradenton Beach Police Department, the Holmes Beach Police Department, or the Palmetto Police Department.

Attorney for Forfeiture Actions in Manatee, FL

Your best chance of getting the property back quickly requires filed for an adversary preliminary hearing within 15 days of the seizure or the date you received notice of the seizure.

Regardless of when you learned about the seizure, it is often in your best interest to demand an adversary preliminary hearing immediately.

If your property or money was seized by an officer in Manatee or Sarasota County, FL, then contact the attorneys at Sammis Law Firm to discuss the best way to get your property back quickly.

Call 813-250-0500 today.


Did You Receive a Notice of Seizure Report?

The foregoing Notice apprises you of your right to the post-seizure adversarial hearing.

NO.:

AGENCY CASE NO.: ——–

DATE: ———-

TO: (Claimant’s Name)

ADDRESS: ———

RE: (Description of Seized Property) This is to advise you that on Date the Seizing Agency seized the above-referenced property for a violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act,§§ 932.701- 932. 7062, Florida Statutes.

YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED that you are entitled by law to request an adversarial preliminary hearing to determine whether there is probable cause to believe the property was used in violation of the Act.

PLEASE NOTE that the adversarial preliminary hearing is not mandatory and you need not request a hearing to later contest the action taken against the property described herein. Each claimant will be given the opportunity to appear in court before final disposition of this matter.

IF YOU DESIRE SUCH A HEARING, you must make a request in writing by certified mail, return receipt requested, to (Name of Seizing Agency) at the address listed below, within fifteen (15) days of receiving this Notice. This request must be accompanied by a copy of this Notice. The seizing agency will notify you of the time, date, and place of that hearing.


Circuit Civil Forfeiture Proceedings Generally

In accordance with section 932. 704(2), Florida Statutes, of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, with the exception of the procedure to be followed in seeking an application for an ex-parte order finding probable cause for seizure as described below, all civil forfeiture cases are heard before a judge in the civil division and shall be assigned in the same manner in which other circuit civil cases are assigned.

Because forfeiture proceedings are civil proceedings, court reporters shall not be provided at the county or state expense. The seizing agency and/or Claimant(s) are responsible for securing the services of and paying the cost of court reporting services.


Initial Proceedings Prior to Filing a Complaint

Section 932.703, Florida Statutes, recognizes the fact that after a seizure under the Forfeiture Act but before the filing a civil complaint, specific events may occur that require court action.

For instance, during the 45 day time period between the seizure and the deadline for filing a formal civil action there is a requirement under section 932 .703(2)(a), Florida Statutes, that the seizing agency apply to the circuit court for an order determining the existence of probable cause.

Florida’s forfeiture laws also include a requirement under section 932.703(3), Florida Statutes, that the agency provide notice of the right to an adversarial preliminary hearing and that such a hearing may be required prior to filing a complaint.

To ensure an adequate record of these initial documents is maintained and a civil case number is available for these filings.

If any claimant makes a request for an adversary hearing, the law enforcement agency in Manatee County that seized the property must schedule the Adversary Preliminary Hearing to be heard within 10 days of the request or as soon as practicable thereafter.

The hearing shall be scheduled before the civil judge assigned to the action by the Clerk of Court.


Complaint for Forfeiture Pursuant to §932.704(5)(c)

The attorneys representing the seizing agencies seeking forfeiture in the Twelfth Judicial Circuit are required to use a Complaint for Forfeiture in substantially the same format as Attachment C of the administrative order.

Section 932.704(5)(c), Florida Statutes, requires any claimant who desires to contest the forfeiture to file and serve upon the attorney for the seizing agency any responsive pleading and affirmative defenses within 20 days after the receipt of the complaint.

To comply with this provision the court has entered Administrative Order 2016-14.1 Notice to Claimant of Seizure and Filing Requirements under Florida Statutes Section 932. 704(5)(c) and counsel for the agency shall include a copy of that order with the complaint and summons to be served upon the claimant.

A sample of the order advising the claimant of the responsive pleading requirements is included in the administrative order as Attachment D.

Upon filing of the Complaint, affidavit and payment of the appropriate filing fee and posting a bond pursuant to section 932.704(4), Florida Statutes, to the Clerk of the Court shall cause the opening of a circuit civil proceeding which shall be treated in all regards in like manner.


Ex-Parte Application for Seizure Probable Cause Determination

If a law enforcement officer in Manatee County or Sarasota County seized your personal property, including a vehicle or currency, the agency will might file an “EX-PARTE APPLICATION FOR SEIZURE PROBABLE CAUSE DETERMINATION.”

The application must be filed in compliance with section 932.703(2), Florida Statutes, describe the property seized within 10 business days of seizing that property.

The requirements specified in paragraph (l)(a) of section 932.703, Florida Statutes, are satisfied based on establishing one of the following facts:

  • The owner of the property was arrested for a criminal offense that forms the basis for determining that the property is a contraband article under section 932.701, Florida Statutes;
  • The owner of the property cannot be identified after a diligent search or 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;
  • The owner is a fugitive from justice or is deceased;
  • An individual who does not own the property is arrested for a criminal offense that forms the basis for determining that the property is a contraband article under section 932.701, Florida Statutes, and the owner of the property had actual knowledge of the criminal activity;
  • The owner of the property agrees to be a confidential informant as defined in section 914.28, Florida Statutes; or
  • The property is a monetary instrument.

Attorney Fees in Civil Asset Forfeiture Cases

In actions for forfeiture pursuant to Sections 932.701-932.7062, Florida Statutes, the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, the law enforcement agency acting as a claimant, pursuant to Section 932.704(4), Florida Statutes, must file a notice of depositing a $1,500 cash bond with the clerk of court.

The bond will be refunded to the law enforcement agency if the agency prevailed in the civil asset forfeiture action.

If a different claimant prevails in the forfeiture action or any appeal, then that claimant will be paid the bond unless the parties, in writing, expressly agree otherwise.

The $1,500 essentially acts as an award for attorney fees if the agency does not prevail in the forfeiture action and any other claimant is awarded the property.


Law Enforcement Agencies that Seize U.S. Currency in Sarasota County

The law enforcement agencies that seize property in Sarasota County, FL, include:

  • the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office
  • the Sarasota Police Department
  • the Sarasota Airport Police Department
  • the Longboat Key Police Department
  • the New College of Florida Police Department
  • the North Port Police Department
  • the University of South Florida Campus Police
  • the Venice Police Department

Each law enforcement agency in Sarasota County that seizes U.S. Currency and other property under Florida’s civil asset forfeiture laws, has their own policies and procedures.


This article was last updated on Monday, June 15, 2020.

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