If you’re involved in a civil asset forfeiture case, sometimes you’re left wondering whether or not you can legally pursue your property at all. Your best bet in this case is to hire a good lawyer who understands your situation–and may be able to help you get your property back.
Of course, being informed yourself never hurts. This post includes some resources you can use to learn more about your options.
The ACLU is famous for its 100-year history of defending individual rights and liberties in the United States, and its advocacy extends to wrongful civil asset forfeiture. With regards to civil asset forfeiture, the historic organization focuses mainly on police abuse of forfeiture and reform of forfeiture laws that are sometimes used for the sake of profit.
Recently, after three attempts by Arizona officials to dismiss a civil asset forfeiture case, a federal court ruled that the claims at the heart of the case presented by the ACLU can move forward. The judge found that the lawsuit establishes a plausible claim that the state’s asset forfeiture laws violate due process rights “because Defendants have a financial incentive to zealously enforce the forfeiture laws.” On the website you can find blogs, court cases, videos, reports, and more.
The Institute for Justice is a non-profit libertarian public interest law firm based out of Virginia, that has litigated five United States Supreme Court cases. Founded in 1991, the organization provides pro bono legal advice and representation to clients based on two major factors: the client’s ability to pay (giving preference to those without the means to obtain representation) and the case’s potential for publicity and education for a wider audience. Outside of civil asset forfeiture, the law firm has dealt with topics including eminent domain, interstate commerce, public financing for elections, school vouchers, and tax credits for private school tuition.
In the Policing for Profit guide, you will find details about abuses of civil asset forfeiture across the nation, as well as individual report cards for each state’s civil asset forfeiture laws. Three factors were used to assign each state’s grade: financial incentive for law enforcement to seize, the government’s standard of proof to forfeit, and who bears the burden in innocent owner claims. Florida received a grade of D+, meaning that the Institute for Justice views Florida’s laws as not adequately protecting property rights and, instead, encouraging policing for profit.
The U.S. Department of Justice files reports to Congress detailing the money involved with civil asset forfeiture for all states including Florida. These reports break down the cash value, sales proceeds, and agency types for various law enforcement agencies in Florida. The total value of all assets seized in Florida for the 2014 fiscal year was just over $17 million. This website also has annual civil asset reports to congress going back to the 2004 fiscal year.