The Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act can be found in Florida Statutes 932.701-932.706, and allows for the seizure and civil forfeiture of property and contraband related to violations of the law.
The forfeiture procedure is a two-step process. The first is the seizure or the initial restraint on the property, and the second is the forfeiture itself. Of course, the outcome must be determined in a court of law before property can be subject to forfeiture. It’s important to understand what falls under the category of “contraband” to understand forfeiture in Florida.
What is “contraband?”
At a broad level, contraband includes the following:
- Controlled substances (as defined in F.S. chapter 893), or any substance, device, paraphernalia, currency or any other means of exchange that was used – or attempted to be used – in violation of any provision of chapter 893. Or, any article for which the state can establish probable cause to believe that there exists a relationship between the article seized and narcotics.
- Gambling paraphernalia, lottery tickets, money, currency, or other means of exchange used or intended to be used in violation of Florida’s gambling laws.
- Goods used or intended to be used in violation of Florida’s beverage or tobacco statutes.
- Motor fuel for which the motor fuel tax has not been paid.
- Any personal property that aided or was intended to aid in the commission of a felony.
- Real property (such as land or structures) used or attempted to be used to facilitate a felony.
- Motor vehicles sold in violation of the vehicle licensing statutes (320.28), or motor vehicles driven in violation of licensing laws (322.34).
- Photographs, films, and any recorded images in violation of video voyeurism statutes (810.145).
This list is by no means exhaustive, and whether or not an item from this list can be subject to forfeiture can depend on whether or not the state can establish probable cause that a relationship exists between alleged contraband and the commission of a criminal offense.
What are criminal and noncriminal acts under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act?
Actions taken in violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act can be criminal or noncriminal, meaning one need not commit a crime to be in violation of the act. These actions include:
- Transporting or carrying any contraband article by means of any land, sea, or air vessel.
- Concealing or possessing any contraband article.
- Using any land, sea, or air vessel to facilitate a transaction involving articles of contraband.
- Concealing, possessing, or using any contraband article that is used or intended to be used in the commission of any felony or violation of the act.
What happens to forfeited assets or contraband?
Once assets or contraband are seized or forfeited, it’s up to the seizing agency to decide what to do with the property. Typically, this means one of three things:
- Retain the property for agency use.
- Sell the property at a public auction (real property must be sold in a commercial manner).
- Salvage, trade, or transfer the property to a public or nonprofit organization (explained further in 932.7055).