Wayne Natt of Longboat Key, Florida was arrested on September 29 for allegedly hiding cameras and microphones around his condo, which he rented on AirBnB. He reportedly recorded at least one of his tenants without their knowledge.
Natt is being charged with video voyeurism. It is unclear if he has acquired the services of an attorney.
According to the arrest report, the alleged incident took place at Natt’s condo at 623 Cedars Court. Police allege Natt installed a camera that filmed tenants without their knowledge through a hole in the side of a smoke detector.
Police have reportedly collected enough evidence to prove the condo was used to commit a felony. If the evidence is backed in court, it could give Longboat Key the authority to seize the condo under state law.
“If someone puts our public, residents or visitors, at risk by use of their property, they’re not going to get away with it and the penalties are going to be severe here on Longboat Key,” said Town Manager Dave Bullock to the Town Commission on November 6. The commission agreed to file a civil asset forfeiture complaint by a 4-3 vote.
Civil asset forfeiture is not directed against the owner but the property itself. To pursue such a case, the owner must be charged with a felony and there has to be enough evidence to prove their property was used to commit a crime. The validity of a civil asset forfeiture case is not dependent on a conviction.
Under state law, a law enforcement agency can pursue forfeiture action against a property it believes was “used as an instrumentality in the commission of any felony,” according to the statute. Before a complaint can be filed, the attorney representing the town must provide the court with criminal arrest documents and probable cause that the property was to commit a crime.
If the court finds in favor of the arresting agency, state law permits the agency to keep the property, trade or salvage it to an organization, or sell it. Funds received from the sale may be used, in order of priority, to pay court fees; preserve the property; pay costs of the forfeiture proceedings; and fund special police trusts, training, or equipment.
“This is the type of case these laws were written for,” Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming told the press. Cumming admitted Longboat police haven’t evoked civil forfeiture laws in over a decade.
According to Manatee County Appraiser’s Office, Natt’s Longboat Key condo is valued at $170,850. But the law does not permit town officials to take the value of the property into account when filing a civil forfeiture complaint.
Civil asset forfeiture laws are not usually used to seize houses. Most cases involve the seizure of money or vehicles. Law enforcement agencies are hesitant to take houses because if the property is won, the seizing agency is responsible for maintaining the homestead.
Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney
If your lawful property has been seized, then you should hire a lawyer. Contact us to set up a free initial consultation and work with one of Florida’s most experienced civil forfeiture defense attorneys.