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Civil Asset Forfeiture in Florida state courts is regulated by the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act. This area of law is extremely complicated and is misunderstood by most people. These are the most commonly asked FAQ’s I encounter as a Florida Civil Asset Forfeiture lawyer:
What is the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act?
The Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act contains all laws regulating Civil Asset Forfeiture in Florida. As a result, it defines the types of property subject to asset seizure as well as the legal process required for asset forfeiture. The Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act also defines notice requirements, affirmative defenses, and time limitations for Civil Asset Forfeiture actions in Florida courts.
What is Asset Forfeiture?
Asset forfeiture is the transfer of formal ownership of private property (assets) from their original owner to the Government. Property used to commit crime or is the proceeds of crime may be subject to asset forfeiture.
What is Civil Asset Forfeiture?
Civil Asset Forfeiture is the legal process used by the Government to take formal ownership of private property (assets) tainted by criminal conduct. Civil Asset Forfeiture takes place in the courts and involves the filing of a lawsuit by the Government. Thus, it is called Civil Asset Forfeiture because it is litigated in civil court as opposed to criminal court.
What is Criminal Forfeiture?
Criminal forfeiture is the legal process used by prosecutors to transfer formal ownership of private property to the Government in criminal prosecutions. It is litigated exclusively in the criminal courts and does not require the filing of a separate lawsuit. Prosecutors pursue criminal forfeiture by adding an additional count at the end of the charging document.
While criminal forfeiture is an option available to Federal prosecutors in U.S. District Court, it is not used in Florida state courts. Under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, all asset forfeitures are filed and litigated in civil court.
What is Asset Seizure?
Asset seizure is the act of taking possession of private property by the Government. Possession may be actual or constructive. When an asset seizure involves actual possession, the Government takes actual physical possession of the property. Because it is impossible to take physical possession of real property, the Government seizes real property by filing a lis pendens in court.
What is lis pendens?
Lis Pendens is a formal notice filed in court advising the public and all interested parties of a pending legal action against certain property. The Government files a lis pendens to seize real property in Civil Asset Forfeiture cases. The Government uses lis pendens to halt the sale, transfer, or destruction of real property.
What type of property is subject to forfeiture?
Pursuant to the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, any “contraband article, vessel, motor vehicle, aircraft, other personal property, or real property” used to commit a crime or which is the proceeds of crime may be subject to forfeiture.
What is a Contraband Article?
A “Contraband Article” is an asset or piece of property that is subject to forfeiture under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act. The most common types of contraband articles are money, foreign currency, motor vehicles, real property, firearms, jewelry, aircraft, and vessels.