State and federal forfeiture laws allow law enforcement to seize private property that was allegedly used in connection with or was obtained using proceeds from the commission of an alleged crime. Civil forfeiture laws frequently allow government agencies to seize and sell personal property without any regard for the innocence of the property owner.
Many people have little knowledge about forfeiture laws, making an already difficult process even more confusing without a defense attorney’s help. Government agencies will send property owners a notice of seizure following any seizure actions. These owners only have a limited amount of time to respond and try to reclaim their property. An Orlando civil asset forfeiture lawyer could help you out in this situation.
The types of property subject to forfeiture vary from case to case, depending on the alleged criminal offense or how the property was used or obtained. Some of the assets most commonly seized by government agencies include, but are not limited to:
Civil forfeiture is independent of criminal cases where property is seized before or even without the property owner being arrested.
People may have one of several possible claims that may allow them to regain property seized by a government agency. Some defenses may be applicable concerning certain forfeiture statutes.
A few successful defenses in these cases include but are not limited to:
People who did not know or consent to their property being used in the commission of a criminal offense can be entitled to regain that property.
Property owners can win cases if they did not receive sufficient notice or the government delayed too long in filing forfeiture cases.
Forfeitures that occur without probable cause or using evidence obtained in violation of a property owner’s Fourth Amendment rights typically leaves the government unable to prove its case.
The United States Supreme Court has ruled on multiple occasions that forfeiture is subject to the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment.
In March of 2016, Florida Governor Rick Scott approved a bill created to reform current civil asset forfeiture practices statewide. The passage of this legislation was a bipartisan effort and received unanimous approval by both chambers of government. The intention is to curb what is known as “policing for profit” in Florida.
These changes included:
The legislation also included guidance intended to discourage meritless seizures. This was accomplished by requiring authorities to pay a filing fee and a bond that goes to the property owner if the forfeiture is deemed unnecessary. While this was a tremendous step in the right direction to protect the rights of Floridians from abusive seizures by law enforcement, some loopholes still allow baseless forfeitures of property to continue.
Currently, state authorities can still seize the personal property of those suspected of committing crimes by collaborating with federal agencies, which do not have the same burden of evidence required to do so. This has led to over $266 million in seizures taking place since 2018 alone, according to a study by The Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability.
If you or a loved one is the target of a frivolous civil asset forfeiture action in Central Florida, speak with a skilled Orlando civil asset forfeiture lawyer right away. These matters are complex and difficult to challenge, often requiring legal defense strategies that address known loopholes that authorities use to take property unlawfully.
Speak with the top-ranking Orlando criminal defense attorneys of The Umansky Law Firm to learn how to fight this abuse and prevent the financial devastation that could follow. Our firm provides aggressive defense services with a track record of success against seizure actions. As former Florida state prosecutors and recognized members of Florida Trend’s Legal Elite, we know how to recognize these incidents and mount an aggressive defense to put a stop to them. Call or contact us today for a free case evaluation.
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