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West Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer / West Palm Beach Forfeiture Lawyer

West Palm Beach Forfeiture Lawyer

Bill Zloch worked in the United States Attorney’s Office for 26 years. 6 of those years were spent in the Forfeiture Division. Mr. Zloch is uniquely qualified in this area. Contact West Palm Beach forfeiture lawyer Bill Zloch get your property back!


What is Asset Forfeiture?

Asset forfeiture refers to the legal process by which federal or state law enforcement agencies seize property that has a nexus or connection to a crime. Forfeiture matters typically involve the seizure of cash, vehicles, houses, and bank accounts.

Federal Forfeiture Laws

Under Federal law, there are three (3) types of forfeiture: criminal forfeiture, civil judicial forfeiture, and administrative forfeiture.

Criminal Forfeiture is an action brought as a part of the criminal prosecution of a defendant. It is an in personam (against the person) action and requires that the government indict (charge) the property used or derived from the crime along with the defendant. If the defendant is convicted and the property is deemed forfeitable, the court issues an order of forfeiture. Criminal forfeiture is limited to the property interests of the defendant.

Civil Judicial Forfeiture is an in rem (against the property) action brought in court against the property that was derived from or used to commit a federal offense. Unlike criminal forfeiture, there is no criminal conviction required, although the government is still required to prove in court by a preponderance of evidence that the property was linked to criminal activity. In a civil forfeiture case, the government is the plaintiff, the property is considered the defendant, and any person who claims an interest in the property is a claimant.

Administrative Forfeiture is an in rem action that permits personal property to be forfeited to the United States without filing a case in federal court. The administrative forfeiture process occurs before the agency that seized the assets when no one has filed a claim contesting the seizure. There are many procedural requirements, including strict time limits and noticing requirements, designed to protect the interests and rights of property holders.

State of Florida Forfeiture Laws

The Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act is the set of laws that regulate asset forfeiture Florida. Unlike Federal law and the laws of other states, Florida does not have criminal forfeiture. On the contrary, Florida only has civil asset forfeiture. However, despite being brought in civil court as opposed to criminal court, civil asset forfeiture in Florida has a criminal burden of proof: Beyond a reasonable doubt.

When does the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act apply?

Knowing which laws apply is essential to success in litigation. To determine if the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act applies to your case, we ask the following questions:

  • Who is the seizing agency? Federal, state, or local law enforcement?
  • What type of property was seized?
  • Have you received a Notice of Seizure? If so, from whom?
  • Did prosecutors or agency attorneys file a civil forfeiture complaint in court?
  • Have criminal charges been filed?

What can be forfeited under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act?

The Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act broadly specifies large categories of property that may be forfeited. The most common types of assets forfeited include money, vehicles, and homes.

Fighting Civil Forfeiture in Court

Civil forfeiture begins with the seizure of private property by law enforcement. The term “seizure” simply refers to when the Government or its agents take possession of private property. This event is important because it kicks off a very strict series of events that have corresponding time limitations.

Step 1: Notice of Seizure

Due Process requires the Government to send notice to all interested parties following an asset seizure. While many seizures happen in person, not all happen with the property owner present. Additionally, a seizure may take place on property far away from the owner’s location, as often happens with real estate and bank accounts. Depending on the jurisdiction where the civil forfeiture case is litigated, the following time limits may apply:

Federal Civil Asset Forfeiture: The Government must send notice to interested parties within 60 days of asset seizure in Federal cases.

Florida Civil Asset Forfeiture: The Government must send notice to interested parties within 5 days of asset seizure unless the interested party is on scene at the time of the seizure.

Stage 2: Claim Period

The second step in a Civil Asset Forfeiture case is the claim period. During this time, interested parties have a very short window of opportunity to file a claim with law enforcement. The deadlines are unforgiving.

Federal Civil Asset Forfeiture: Claimants have 35 days file their claim from the date Notice of Seizure was mailed.

Florida Civil Asset Forfeiture: Claimants have 15 days to request an Adversarial Preliminary Hearing.

This is where the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act and the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act differ. Under Federal law, the Government can pursue something called “Administrative Forfeiture” before proceeding to court. Administrative forfeiture enables the Government and the claimant to settle the asset forfeiture without litigation in court.

Stage 3: Settlement Negotiation

A Civil Forfeiture Defense Attorney should be nearing the completion of his/her pre-suit case investigation at this point.

Stage 4: Litigation and Trial

Your case will probably resolve in court if it has not settled by this point in time. Your civil forfeiture attorney may also ask the judge to dismiss the forfeiture lawsuit, exclude evidence, or grant other requests that weaken the Government’s case.

If the case is not dismissed at this stage, the parties may engage in further settlement discussions. Otherwise, it will proceed to trial.

Contact An Experienced West Palm Beach Forfeiture Attorney Today

Forfeiture matters can be stressful when your cash, vehicles, houses, and bank accounts are seized. Contact skilled West Palm Beach Forfeiture lawyer Bill Zloch of Perlet & Shiner, P.A. for immediate help.

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