Florida Governor Rick Scott recently approved a bill that will make it harder for police to seize personal property without criminally charging the owner. This bill enacts major reform as police officers throughout the country routinely profit from civil asset forfeiture – a practice in which officers can seize jewelry, vehicles, houses, and more based on even the smallest claim of a connection to a crime. In an alarming number of cases, individuals are stripped of their property without any evidence of misconduct, leaving defendants to fight expensive legal battles to prove their innocence and regain their confiscated property.
Now, Florida will have the country’s most robust protections in civil asset forfeiture. The new law, which passed with the overwhelming support of both Democrats and Republicans, will take effect this July. Police officers will now be required to place suspects under arrest before they can confiscate property. Furthermore, the agency seizing the property will be required to pay a filing fee of $1,000 to take possession of the asset(s) and additionally put up a $1,500 bond. That money will go to the owner if he or she is found innocent of a crime.
Police will not have to abide by these rules for cash seizures, but they will have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the cash is related to a criminal activity before the forfeiture can be made permanent.
This new law eliminates a system of “policing for profit” in Florida. Similar laws have been enacted in Wyoming, New Mexico, Montana, and Michigan, and proposals are pending in a number of other states.
If you have had your assets seized on suspicion of criminal activity, please contact Hager & Schwartz, P.A. as soon as possible. Our Miami criminal defense lawyers can help you prove your innocence and recover any property that was wrongfully taken from you. We believe that you are “innocent until proven guilty” and are prepared to do whatever it takes to help protect your constitutional rights.
Call 24/7 for immediate help: (305) 330-1360.