Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Close Menu
West Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer / Blog / Drug Crimes / Civil Asset Forfeiture After A Florida Drug Crime

Civil Asset Forfeiture After A Florida Drug Crime


Asset forfeiture is a legal process by which property that is believed to be connected to an offense – or was obtained via proceeds from that offense – can be seized by law enforcement. In terms of what may be seized and why, Florida’s law is broad, potentially permitting law enforcement to retain the property of defendants even if they have not been officially charged with an offense (or were found not guilty).

Stricter Regulations After 2016

Until 2016, Florida law enforcement could simply seize property based on suspicion; Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture Act (CFA) was passed to reform this and other potentially abusive practices among state law enforcement agencies. The Act requires that the owner of an item must have been arrested before the property can be seized, and even after the seizure, a court must review the seizure within 10 days to determine if there was probable cause. The court also demands proof ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ that the property was involved in the crime; any less and the forfeiture might not be allowed to stand.

If there is probable cause for the seizure, the law then sets out the specific situations in which a piece of non-monetary property can be seized. There is no specific list of assets that may be seized, but in general, one can extrapolate based on the underlying offense. For example, in a white-collar crime, a bank account might be seized; in a drug case, the drugs themselves, or any paraphernalia, would fall under the same regulations.

Possible Defenses Exist

If you have been arrested for a drug crime in Florida, it is important to be aware of your rights. Florida has very strict drug laws, and it is not uncommon in drug cases for state authorities to attempt to subvert the CFA by ‘partnering up’ with federal agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) – which in turn allows them to seize more assets, as federal law does not require such a high burden of proof before forfeiture.

There are three main arguments that a person can use to defend themselves – not against the charges against them, per se, but against the forfeiture. They are:

  • The “innocent owner” defense, in which a person argues that they were unaware of their property being used in the commission of a crime or being paid for out of the proceeds;
  • Disproportionality, in which the owner of the seized property argues that the forfeiture is disproportionate to the crime; and
  • Attacking law enforcement procedure when seizing the assets – for example, arguing that law enforcement had no probable cause to take the property.

If any of these fit your situation, you may be able to recover your property – though the drug charges will, of course, require further legal maneuvering.

Call A West Palm Beach Drug Offenses Attorney

It is very common for drug defendants to have property seized, allegedly because the property was used in commission of drug crimes. Regardless, you have rights – and a West Palm Beach drug offenses attorney from Perlet & Shiner, P.A. can help to protect them. Call our office today to speak to an attorney at (561) 721-0552.



Facebook Twitter LinkedIn