Florida Forfeiture Law Update
An Update to Florida Forfeiture Laws
Smith & Eulo Law Firm recently published a blog about Civil Forfeiture laws in Florida. Since that blog was published, Governor Rick Scott has signed a bill that will make significant changes to Florida’s forfeiture process. Florida’s current forfeiture laws were covered in a blog and could be found: here. The new law, set to take affect on July 1, 2016, will be more favorable for defendants in forfeiture actions.
Changes To the Law:
- Arrest – Of the changes that will be made, perhaps the most significant is, now, in most cases, a person is actually required to be arrested for an offense before property can be seized as contraband. This is in stark contrast to the law as it currently stands, whereby a person’s property could be seized as contraband of a crime despite not actually being arrested. This change in the law could result in fewer seizures.
- Financial Consequences – Even if a seizure is made, the new law will make agencies think twice about filing a complaint to follow through with the seizure process. The new law requires that the seizing agency pay filing fees of at least $1,000.00 to file a forfeiture action. In addition, the agency must post a $1,500.00 bond. This bond will automatically go to the defendant in the case if the Defendant is successful. Also, the defendant is entitled to up to $2,000.00 in attorney’s fees if the Defendant prevails in the forfeiture case (an increase from $1,000.00). Agencies now have a larger financial risk associated with forfeiture actions.
- Higher Standard of Proof – Another significant change to the statute is the standard of proof the seizing agency must satisfy to be successful in a forfeiture suit. The state now has a higher standard of proof and must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the item seized was being used in violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act. This is the same standard of proof used in criminal cases and a more difficult standard to meet than the current preponderance of the evidence standard of proof. A higher standard of proof makes it less risky to challenge a forfeiture action and makes litigation rather than settlement more feasible.
The changes above are just a few of the updates to the Forfeiture laws in Florida. To view the statute in its entirety and the rest of the changes that will go into affect on July 1, 2016 visit the link here: http://laws.flrules.org/2016/179
If your property is seized under the current or new forfeiture statute, you should contact an attorney at Smith & Eulo Law Firm and let us review your case to determine the best course of action for recovering your property.