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Middle District of Florida U.S. Attorney’s Office Collects Almost $20 Million in Asset Forfeiture Actions in 2020

alexander-schimmeck-j5NU6WZN1nA-unsplash-300x200The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida announced that it collected almost $20 million in asset forfeiture actions during the 2020 fiscal year.

According to the Justice Department press release, the district’s Asset Recovery and Victims’ Rights Division recovered $19,233,234 in forfeited assets last year.

“Through our collaborative work with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, our collection efforts have resulted in the recovery of millions of dollars from convicted criminals and others who have benefited from fraud and other illegal activities,” said U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez in a press release. “These collected funds will assist victims in their recovery and assist law enforcement as they continue to hold criminals accountable for their crimes.”

There are two main types of forfeiture actions: civil and criminal. Civil asset forfeiture is a legal process that allows law enforcement agencies to seize property they suspect may be connected to criminal activity. Unlike criminal forfeiture, which is an action brought against a person as part of a criminal prosecution, civil forfeiture doesn’t require a criminal charge against the owner.

According to a recently published report by the Institute for Justice, law enforcement agencies in Florida lead the nation in property seizures using asset forfeiture. Police in Florida seized nearly $266 million in cash, homes, vehicles, and other property using forfeiture actions in 2018, the report claims. It gave Florida a “C” for its civil forfeiture laws, stating that it has a “higher bar to forfeit” than some other states because prosecutors are required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that property is connected to a crime. However, the Virginia-based public interest law firm also slammed the state for having a large profit incentive, with up to 75 percent of forfeiture proceeds going to law enforcement coffers.

One of the biggest criticisms of civil forfeiture is that it incentivizes law enforcement agencies to “police for profit” and pursue strategies that prioritize seizures over public safety. Police can seize private property based on unsubstantiated claims since a large portion of forfeiture funds are absorbed into their budgets. It doesn’t help that the burden of proof in civil forfeiture cases is often placed on the property’s owner, who must prove their property is not connected to a crime if they want it back.

The DOJ press release noted that the funds collected in the Middle District of Florida were deposited into the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture Fund. They will purportedly be used for a variety of unspecified law enforcement purposes as well as paying restitution to victims of crimes.

If your property has been seized by police or federal agents in Florida using civil forfeiture, then hiring an experienced civil forfeiture attorney is your best chance for getting back your property.

Nationwide Federal Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney

Have police or federal agents seized your property using civil forfeiture? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation and work with an experienced nationwide federal civil asset forfeiture attorney.

Source: 1.19.21 middle district of Florida US attorneys office collects more than $276 million in civil and criminal actions in fiscal year 2020.pdf

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