Having your property or cash seized by law enforcement in Florida can be a surprising and frustrating experience. Most people do not know that under civil asset forfeiture laws, law enforcement agencies can seize your property. In most instances, the seizure may even result in a forfeiture, meaning they get to keep the property or cash permanently.
As a result, most people react with outrage when they learn that their assets have been seized by law enforcement. While your feelings are understandable, and only natural, it is important to act quickly in order to have any hope of recovering your property. The civil asset seizure and forfeiture process can move very quickly, and within a matter of days, you may lose your right to reclaim your property.
To ensure the best chances of success, you should immediately consult with an experienced Florida civil asset forfeiture attorney for help. Attorney Michael D. Barber helps people whose property has been seized by police to recover their property. He understands how the civil asset forfeiture process works and can help you recover your seized assets.
It doesn’t matter if your money or property was seized by local law enforcement or federal agencies such as Customs and Border Patrol or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Contact the Law Office of Michael D. Barber to begin the process of recovering your assets. Call 407-890-8000 to schedule a free consultation today.
What is Civil Asset Forfeiture?
Asset forfeiture occurs when law enforcement agencies believe money or property is involved in the commission of a crime. An asset may also be seized if it is believed to be part of the proceeds of crime or if it constitutes contraband by itself.
The asset forfeiture laws were created to ensure that law enforcement agencies can prevent criminals from accessing the tools or proceeds of crime. Under both federal and Florida laws, these agencies can seize and take control of these assets and may even keep them in some cases.
Most people who have their assets seized are targeted under civil asset forfeiture laws. In Florida, the Contraband Forfeiture Act controls proceedings for asset forfeiture brought in Florida’s state courts. When the assets are seized by federal agencies, proceedings are brought in federal courts. Under these laws, law enforcement agencies may seize any property, including cash, buildings, and vehicles.
How Civil Asset Forfeiture Works
In civil asset forfeiture proceedings, you do not need to be charged with a crime. In fact, sometimes, you do not even need to be suspected of a crime.
When your property is seized by law enforcement agencies, you will receive a receipt showing the property taken. You will also receive a Notice of Seizure that will inform you of your right to an Adversarial Preliminary Hearing. But you must request this hearing within 15 days for a chance at preserving your rights to your property. Anyone who fails to request the hearing may be at severe risk of permanently losing their property.
Most people lose their property by not responding in time to request a hearing. A report by the Institute for Justice found that, between 2001 and 2014, the US Department of Justice and the US Treasury Department collected a joint $29 billion in annual civil asset forfeitures. Up to 88% of these forfeitures were administrative – meaning the owners failed to challenge the forfeiture in court.
As a result, it is incredibly vital that you reach out to a civil asset forfeiture attorney the instant that your property is seized. You have no time to waste.
The Problem with the Power to Seize Property
In truth, the asset forfeiture laws have played a significant role in dismantling large criminal organizations. They have been important in the fight to prevent these organizations from having access to vital resources and have helped take away assets they acquired unlawfully.
However, the problem with these laws is they are often turned on regular citizens, and sometimes even innocent ones. Although the government’s power to seize property has been around for a long time, the government has begun to use this power more often in the past several decades. When Congress gave law enforcement agencies the power to seize property, they began to enforce these laws much more frequently.
The speedy process and relatively low thresholds for forfeiture make it very easy for agencies to initiate the asset forfeiture process and deprive people of their property. But the tradeoff is many innocent people lose their valuable assets as a result, simply because they do not understand the process or even fear they may be charged with an offense if they try to fight back.
Many people lose their assets, usually in the form of cash, at ports of entry and exit into the US. For instance, a 2016 investigation found that the DEA seized up to $209 million in cash from travelers at 15 of the biggest airports in the US, over the course of 10 years. Most of these people had no idea that US laws require them to file a disclosure form whenever they are traveling with cash amounts over $10,000.
In many cases, you will not deserve to have your assets seized by law enforcement agencies. But, the only way you can recover your property is by immediately taking steps to hold the officers who seized your property accountable and challenging the seizure through the court process. This is where Attorney Michael D. Barber can help.
How Can Attorney Michael Barber Help Recover Your Property?
Although law enforcement agencies have the power to seize your property, they are still obligated to prove why the seizure is legally permissible. If they believe the property was used in the commission of a crime or constitutes contraband, they must provide credible evidence showing this is the case.
If law enforcement can show why the property was seized and why they should keep it permanently, you will be called upon to prove why your ownership rights should be preserved. You can trust Attorney Michael D. Barber to present reasons why this should be the case to the court on your behalf.
In many asset forfeiture cases, the seized property was either taken mistakenly or has no connection to a crime. According to a report made by the Justice Department in 2017, just 44% of seizures by the DEA in that year had any connection to a criminal offense.
Throughout our years of experience defending people who had their assets seized unfairly we have developed deep knowledge of the system and will be able to raise multiple defenses on your behalf. But, in order to ensure recovery of your assets, you must contact our civil asset forfeiture attorney once your property is seized.
Schedule a free consultation with Attorney Michael D. Barber today at 407-890-8000 to start the process of recovering your property.