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Articles Tagged with Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act

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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?”

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When it comes to forfeiture, two procedures exist: civil and criminal. The most important difference between these two procedures is in the simplicity of the rules outlined for each forfeiture action.

Civil forfeitures are often easier for the state and federal government because no criminal prosecution or conviction is required. One does not have to have committed a crime to have their assets seized in a civil forfeiture. Rather, the government only needs to establish sufficient probable cause for the forfeiture of the property.

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You can defend yourself from civil asset forfeiture under Florida law. A good lawyer can help you understand what is happening and take steps to protect yourself. 

When Is Seizure Legal?

Luckily, there have been some recent changes in Florida forfeiture law that make the conditions under which property can be seized more strict. After July 1, 2016, property can only be seized if the owner has been arrested for a criminal offense and there is reasonable evidence that the property is contraband.

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Civil asset forfeiture can be found in many criminal cases. It happens when authorities seize property–cars, cash, electronics, etc.–that are supposedly connected to a crime.

Luckily, civil asset forfeiture is heavily regulated. The conditions under which property can be seized are strict in order to protect property owners from unfair seizure. 

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An Adversarial Preliminary Hearing is a court proceeding where a judge determines if probable cause exists to believe that seized property has been used in violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.

During this hearing, the judge will review evidence presented by law enforcement as well as any potential claimants. Evidence can include documentation, financial records, photographs, videos, physical evidence, forensic evidence, and witness testimony.

It is important to remember that an Adversarial Preliminary Hearing is just that – a preliminary hearing. It is not a trial on the merits, it is not the end all/say all in your case, and it isn’t the last chance you will get to fight back. The hearing exists to see if there is a basis for law enforcement to continue to seize your property pending the outcome of the forfeiture action.