Cash Seizures for Money Laundering

What happens when state or federal law enforcement officers in Florida seize U.S. Currency based on an allegation of money laundering?

The seizure of money for money laundering might take place at an airport, train station, bus station, or highway. Law enforcement authorities might seize cash during the execution of a search warrant in a home or business or from a bank account.

While the seizure of cash might be a good way to discourage money laundering crimes, when law enforcement officers cast too wide of a net, innocent people might see their life savings disappear.

Additionally, when law enforcement officers use illegal tactics to catch a suspect, the court can throw the evidence out if the proper motion to suppress that evidence is filed and litigated.

In Florida, money can be seized for forfeiture based on an allegation that it was used as an instrumentality in the commission of, or in aiding or abetting in the commission of money laundering or by transporting a monetary instrument with the intent to promote the carrying on of specified unlawful activity in violation of § 896.101, F.S.

The property owner can make a claim for the money and should hire an attorney to file a demand for an adversarial preliminary hearing within 15 days of the seizure. The agency is then required to set and notice an adversarial preliminary hearing.

The agency that seized the money also has a statutorily imposed deadline to file a Verified Complaint/Petition for Forfeiture.

After the petition is filed, the people making a claim for the cash seized must file an answer and allege affirmative defenses, which might include:

  • the Petitioners are not the seizing agency;
  • the seizing agency had failed to promptly proceed against the alleged contraband articles;
  • the adversarial preliminary hearing was not properly set and noticed by the seizing agency;
  • the property was seized in violation of the Florida and U.S. Constitutional guarantees against unlawful searches and seizures.

Attorney for Cash Seizure for Money Laundering in Florida

If your money was seized based on suspicion of money laundering, contact an attorney at Sammis Law Firm.

We can help you obtain any documents the agency intends to use against you, demand an adversarial preliminary hearing, file a claim, file an answer and defenses, and fight the case at any pretrial hearing or trial.

Your attorney can obtain information about the agency’s written policies and procedures, ensuring that all asserted claims of interest in seized property are promptly reviewed for potential validity.

We can also secure any records needed to show whether any law enforcement officer involved in your case was in compliance.

Visit our main office in downtown Tampa in Hillsborough County. We have additional offices in New Port Richey in Pasco County and Clearwater in Pinellas County, FL.

We represent clients during any asset forfeiture proceeding and any proceedings in the criminal case, including motions and trials.

Contact us to learn more about why money is seized in money laundering cases in Florida.

Act quickly to protect your rights. Call 813-250-0500.

Motion for Summary Judgment in a Forfeiture Case in Florida

The standard for reviewing a summary judgment motion is stated in Rule 1.510(c) of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure:

The judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.

The moving party must do more than merely to assert that an issue does exist. As the Florida Supreme Court explained in Landers v. Milton, 370 So.2d 368 (Fla. 1979), the party moving for summary judgment had the initial burden of demonstrating the nonexistence of any genuine issue of material fact.

Once the moving party presents competent evidence to support its motion, the opposing party must come forward with counter evidence sufficient to reveal a genuine issue. Id.

Allegations of money laundering under Florida Statute Section 896.101 involve allegations of transporting money or monetary instruments (Currency or check) with the intent to promote the carrying on of specified unlawful activity.

Contraband Subject to Forfeiture in Florida

Any personal property used as an instrumentality to commit a felony is contraband and may be forfeited. § 932.701(2)(a)5., Fla. Stat.

Currency that is transmitted or carried in violation of a Florida state statute is contraband and is subject to forfeiture. In Re: Forfeiture of $171,900.00 In U.S. Currency, 711 So.2d 1269 (Fla. 3d DCA 1998).

For the seizure of the currency to be valid under Florida law, the property must have been used in violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act — that is, used in a money-laundering scheme. Id.

Understanding the Agency’s Policies and Procedures

Each state or local law enforcement agency that files civil forfeiture actions under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act is required to file on an annual basis a certificate signed by the agency head or his or her designee.

Under Section 932.704(11)(a), Fla. Stat., the certificate represents that the agency’s policies and procedures comply with the required guidelines.

Florida Statute Section 932.704(11)(e) provides:

A seizing agency shall adopt and implement written policies, procedures, and training to ensure compliance with all applicable legal requirements regarding seizing, maintaining, and the forfeiture of property under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.

Read more about seizures for forfeiture of U.S. Currency at Amtrak train stations in Florida.

This article was last updated on Friday, May 26, 2023.