Asset Forfeiture by Lakeland Police Department

Under Florida law, statutes govern the process of all asset seizure and forfeitures that must be followed by officers with local police departments, including the Lakeland Police Department. For example, the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act (FCFA) authorizes law enforcement agencies to seize real and personal property used in violation of Florida law.

The Lakeland Police Department might use the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act (FCFA) in an attempt to obtain title to the property by seeking a court order forfeiting the property to the agency. The FCFA protects the rights of innocent owners and lien holders, although many innocent owners and lien holders are forced to hire an attorney to force a law enforcement agency in Polk County, FL, to return the property.

Any seizure made by an officer with the Lakeland Police Department must comply with Florida law and the policies and procedures established in LPD’s General Orders. Other law enforcement agencies in Polk County, including the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, have similar rules for seizing property for forfeiture proceedings.

After the seizure by local law enforcement officers in Polk County, FL, a federal agency might “adopt” the seizure so it proceeds under federal law. Those federal agencies that adopt local seizure might include the DEA, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), or Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). In those cases, after your notice of seizure is issued, you only have 35 days to file a verified claim. The law is unforgiving if you make a mistake or miss a deadline.

Defendants in civil forfeiture proceedings are not entitled to the appointment of counsel. In re Forfeiture of $2,311.45 U.S. Currency, 559 So. 2d 717, 718 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990). Law enforcement agencies know that and use it to their advantage.

But you have the right to retain your own private attorney to protect your rights and fight to get your seized property back quickly. Your attorney might take the case on contingency, meaning you pay nothing unless they get your property back.

Attorneys for Property Seized for Forfeiture in Lakeland, FL

If your property was seized for forfeiture in Lakeland, FL, by an officer or detective with the Lakeland Police Department, then contact an experienced attorney at Sammis Law Firm, P.A.

Our attorneys handle forfeiture cases throughout the greater Tampa Bay area, including Polk County and the City of Lakeland. We represent lienholders and innocent owners after their cash, vehicle, or other property is seized.

We know how to demand an adverse preliminary hearing to force the fast return of the property. Whether you were arrested for a crime by the Lakeland Police Department, or are facing a forfeiture action, let us put our experience to work for you.

Call 813-250-0500.

Procedures for Civil Asset Forfeiture Actions in Lakeland, FL

The title to seized property classified as “contraband” might be resolved through a forfeiture pre-suit settlement, forfeiture lawsuit, or as “unclaimed evidence.” U.S. Currency or monetary assets seized and disposed of under a legal principle of forfeiture are kept within the Lakeland Police Department’s Law Enforcement Trust Fund (LETF).

Any property acquired through these processes is documented in agency records within the AIM database and used and/or disposed of by the agency under Florida law.

General Order 2-6 of the Lakeland Police Department, effective 05/12/2020, applies to the seizure of cash funds or accounts. According to the order, “[m]embers of the Office of General Counsel may serve as a means to accept, deposit, or disperse seized currency as a result of forfeiture but are not authorized to hold cash in a cash fund.”

Statistics on Seizures for Forfeiture in Lakeland, FL

Each year, the Lakeland Police Department provides statistical information on LPD’s asset seizures and forfeitures during the prior year. The Office of General Counsel prepares all forfeiture actions by LPD and files them with the Clerk of the Court for ultimate disposition by a Circuit Judge in Polk County, FL.

The statistical information shows the property seized, the resulting action, the final disposition, and the race and gender of the subject of the action. LPD also publishes statistical information on pending forfeiture cases that were initiated but are still pending final action by the courts

Items subject to civil asset forfeiture in Lakeland include vehicles (cars, trucks, vans), boats or water vessels, airplanes, drones, U.S. Currency (cash or money), gold or other precious metals, jewelry, firearms, weapons, electronic equipment (computers, cameras, TV, DVR), and safes. For example, in 2015, there were a total of 12 seizures.

Each year, Florida’s Office of Professional Standards reviews the Lakeland Police Department’s current practices, procedures, and general orders in asset seizure and forfeiture cases.

The reviews determine whether the Lakeland Police Department was in compliance with all applicable laws and accreditation standards. The Office of Professional Standards also reviews complaints submitted to the LPD’s Internal Affairs Unit pertaining to bias-based profiling with respect to any asset seizure and forfeiture action in Lakeland.

This article was last updated on Friday, April 19, 2024.