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 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 LPD to return the property.
Any seizure made by an officer with the Lakeland Police Department must company with both Florida law and the policies and procedures established in LPD’s General Orders.
In some cases, the Lakeland Police Department might turn your funds over to a federal agency such as 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. If you make a mistake or miss a deadline, the law is unforgiving.
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 do have the right to retain your own attorney to protect your rights and fight to get your seized property back quickly.
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 all of Polk County and the City of Lakeland. We represent lienholders and innocent owners after the seizure of their cash, vehicle, or other property.
We know how to demand an adverse preliminary hearing to force the fast return of the property at the earliest opportunity. 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.
Procedures for Civil Asset Forfeiture Actions in Lakeland, FL
The title to seized property that is classified as “contraband” might be resolved through a forfeiture pre-suit settlement, as a 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 is used and or disposed of by the agency pursuant to legal authority.
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. All forfeiture actions by LPD are prepared by the Office of General Counsel and filed with the Clerk of the Court for ultimate disposition by a Circuit Judge.
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, the Office of Professional Standards conducted a review of 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, September 30, 2022.