When it comes to civil asset forfeiture, you win some and you lose some. Minor details can make all of the difference. Here are some examples of forfeiture cases and their outcomes.
City of Edgewood v. Williams, 556 So. 2d 1390 (Fla. 1990)
Vehicles used merely to transport an individual who then engages in criminal activity must be closely and knowingly related to the criminal conduct. If illegal activity could have occurred without use of the vehicle, or if the illegal activity had not been intended when the vehicle was used, then it cannot be subject to forfeiture. In this case, a Porsche was used to drive to the Tampa International Airport, where the driver flew to North Dakota to conduct a drug deal. The Porsche was “only remotely incidental” to the underlying crime, and thus not subject to forfeiture.
In July 1987, a fifteen-year-old female friend of the defendant called and asked for a ride due to rain which prevented her from riding home on her bicycle. The defendant agreed to give her a ride home; shortly after she entered the car, the defendant fondled the victim’s breast. The city of Edgewood petitioned for forfeiture due to the fact that the defendant had used his BMW to transport himself to and from the scene of a felony. The district court reserved the trial court’s issuance of forfeiture, holding that the defendant’s use of the vehicle was “only remotely incidental” to his criminal conduct.
Duckham v. State, 479 So. 2d 347 (Fla. 1985)
The defendant used his 1977 Volkswagen solely to transport himself to a restaurant where he facilitated a drug deal with an undercover officer. Each person then drove back to Duckham’s apartment in his own vehicle, where the deal was consummated and after which Duckham was arrested. Since Duckham drove himself to the meeting in the Volkswagen and then to where the sale occurred, it was ruled that his vehicle facilitated the illegal sale. No drugs were transported in the car and no conversations took place in the car, but it was subject to forfeiture.
Forfeiture of One 1978 Ford F250 Truck, 438 So. 2d 1023 (Fla. 5th DCA 1983)
The defendant used his pick-up truck to transport an operable short-barreled shotgun, which amounted to a third-degree felony (section 790.221, Florida Statutes, ), and was considered “contraband” under section 932.701(2)(e), Florida Statutes (1981). Since the truck was being used in the commission of the felony of possession of a short-barreled shotgun, the pick-up truck was subject to forfeiture.
Martinez v. Heinrich, 521 So. 2d 167 (Fla. 2d DCA 1988)
Two men drove a Cadillac to an adult bookstore where they sold obscene materials in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO). Although the State attempted to seize the Cadillac, they were unable to prove that the illegal activity could not have occurred without use of the vehicle. The defendants were observed travelling to and from the adult bookstore, but all of the illicit materials were found at the bookstore itself, not in the vehicle. Thus, the vehicle was not subject to forfeiture.