Florida scored a pathetic D+ rating on civil asset forfeiture according to a 2010 “Policing for Profit” nationwide study by the Institute for Injustice (a non-profit national advocacy law firm). Civil forfeiture has become a revenue generation tool used by police to fund their own coffers.
Most Floridians are unaware that assets may be seized absent of the owner being charged with a crime and possession may be permanently transferred without a conviction.
Law enforcement agencies may confiscate any property they allege is connected to a crime. Cash, cars, real estate, boats and other possessions may be seized and forfeited to the agency without a conviction. This practice has received national attention and is under scrutiny as legislatures attempt to balance the rights of property owners with the efforts of law enforcement agencies to apprehend and prevent criminal activity. In Florida, although agencies may use the contraband, sell the property, or donate it to another organization, proceeds may not be used for routine operating expenditures. In addition, when seizure amounts exceed $15,000, agencies are required to donate at least 15% of the proceeds to substance abuse and crime prevention programs.
This 2016 session, four bills have been introduced to address forfeiture of contraband: • SB 1044 by Sen. Jeff Brandes / HB 883 by Rep. Matt Caldwell • SB 220 by Sen. Aaron Bean / HB 889 by Rep. Larry Metz