Can I Get My Property Back After Forfeiture?
Civil asset forfeiture is a policy where assets can be seized from people suspected of committing crimes, if the property is believed to have played a role in the crime. However, the key word is suspected; no conviction is necessary for law enforcement to take your property, and the odds of getting it back may not be in your favor. You need an experienced attorney on your side who can help stand up for your rights.
Positives & Negatives
Asset forfeiture is a tool used by law enforcement, ostensibly to deter crime by seizing items allegedly used in the commission of crime. For example, if police can establish that drugs were transported in your vehicle, they may be able to seize your vehicle. This does not mean they automatically have ownership of that vehicle; rather, they take possession of it, at least in theory to use in furthering prosecution of the crime.
While this can be of great help in trying to prosecute certain crimes, it can also be highly problematic, especially in the case of liquid cash. Until very recently, the law allowed police departments to keep up to 80 percent of the assets they seized under color of asset forfeiture; the community of Bal Harbour, north of Miami Beach, seized nearly $50 million over three years, with almost no oversight or way to get any of it back to its owners (most of whom were never charged with any crime). By the time they were ordered to return any of the money, it had already been spent.
Recovering Your Property
If your property has been seized by Florida law enforcement under civil forfeiture, you will receive a notice of seizure – however, it is crucial that you act fast once you have received the notice; Florida law requires that if you want to try and reclaim your property, you must file your request for a hearing within 15 days of receipt, which is a very small window of time. Many people do not react quickly enough, and lose their chance to recoup their property.
If you do manage to file your request for a hearing quickly enough, you need an attorney who has experience with these cases simply because there are still quite a few loopholes that unethical law enforcement officials may exploit if they are faced with the unwary. There must be evidence that a crime has been committed before property can be seized.
Contact A West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
Too often, people have property seized and never see it again, even when they may have committed no crime at all. If this is your situation, you need an experienced West Palm Beach criminal lawyer from the firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. to handle the situation. Contact our offices today to speak to an attorney.