Tampa Forfeiture Proceedings Lawyer
When property is used to commit a crime, the government has the right to take that property. The process by which the property is taken is called forfeiture. Forfeiture proceedings can be either criminal or civil—at the law office of Trombley & Hanes, we have experience working on both types of forfeiture proceedings cases. In the state of Florida, forfeiture proceedings are governed by the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, found in Florida Statutes Section 932.701. If you are involved in a criminal case and your property has been seized, our Tampa forfeiture proceedings lawyers can help you.
Forfeiture is the process by which the government can take property that was either used to commit a crime or was the fruit of a crime. For example, if a person robs a bank and uses a car to flee the scene, both the car and the money obtained from the robbery are subject to forfeiture. Innocent third party owners of property have the ability to intervene in a forfeiture proceeding to protect their right to the property. In the example, if an innocent third party owned the car, the third party would have the right to contest the forfeiture. Although restitution can overlap with property subject to forfeiture, the concepts are distinct, and an individual can be subject to both restitution and forfeiture.
Forfeiture can be a civil or criminal proceeding. Civil proceedings are in rem, that is the action is against the property and not a particular person. Criminal proceedings are in personam, meaning the action is against a person; if the person is convicted of the crime, their property can be forfeited. In a criminal proceeding, the property does not necessarily have to be connected to the crime as the government can obtain a money judgement or substitute assets if the property associated with the crime is unavailable.
What Is the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act?
The Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act provides for the seizure and forfeiture of property that is involved in activities that are in violation of the act, such as criminal activities like drug trading, fraud, money laundering, etc. The process of seizure and forfeiture involves two primary steps:
- First, the property will be seized. In many cases, the seizure will happen at the time the defendant is arrested or shortly thereafter.
- Second, a court determination regarding the forfeiture occurs, officially declaring that the property can be legally forfeited.
A person whose property is taken under the forfeiture act has the right to fight the forfeiture. Working with a Tampa forfeiture lawyer is strongly recommended during this process.
Adversarial Preliminary Hearings in Florida Forfeiture Actions
An adversarial preliminary hearing is conducted after a seizure occurs but before an official forfeiture hearing. This hearing is conducted to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that the property was being used in violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act. If a showing of probable cause is made, the other party has the right to rebut that claim. If the case moves forward to a forfeiture proceeding, then the state must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant (property owner) knew or should have known that the property was being used for criminal activity.
How a Tampa Forfeiture Proceedings Lawyer Can Help
Challenging an asset seizure and forfeiture case can be a highly complex process. When you work with our Tampa forfeiture proceedings lawyer, we’ll make sure you understand all of the steps associated with a forfeiture proceeding and what you need to do, and when, to challenge a forfeiture. We’ll also gather and present evidence to support your case and challenge the state’s argument for forfeiture. We know how upsetting losing your property in a seizure and forfeiture case can be, and we’ll work hard on your behalf to protect your legal rights.
Call Our Tampa Forfeiture Proceedings Lawyer Today
If you are involved in a Tampa forfeiture proceeding or have had your property seized as part of a criminal case, don’t hesitate to contact a skilled Tampa forfeiture proceedings lawyer directly. At the law office of Trombley & Hanes, our criminal defense lawyers have the experience and reputation you can trust. Reach out to us today by phone or online to learn more and get started.
Frequently Asked Questions for Tampa Forfeiture Proceedings
What Types of Property Can Be Seized and Subjected to Forfeiture in Florida?
All types of property can be seized in criminal and civil actions and subject to forfeiture, including cash, vehicles, real estate, firearms, drugs, and proceeds obtained through illegal activity.
What is the Difference Between Asset Seizure and Asset Forfeiture?
Asset Seizure refers to the government taking — or seizing — physical possession of the property. Asset Forfeiture addresses ownership of the property. Forfeiture is the legal process the Government uses to take ownership of property it has seized. Property is officially forfeited when the legal process is complete and legal title transfers to the Government.
If law enforcement has taken possession of your property during a seizure, contact our skilled forfeiture proceedings defense attorneys in Tampa to learn how we can help keep them from transferring ownership to the government.
Do I Have to Be Convicted of a Crime to Have My Property Seized?
The government has the right to seize property connected to illegal activity in both criminal and civil cases. In criminal cases, property may be held without a conviction, but forfeiture requires a conviction before the state takes items associated with the alleged crime.
Civil forfeiture allows the control of assets from individuals suspected of involvement in crime or illegal activity. Still, it does not require a conviction and often occurs without charging them with wrongdoing.
If law enforcement has seized your property, you have the right to defend it against being forfeited to government ownership. Contact our forfeiture proceedings lawyers in Tampa today to learn how we can help protect your property and rights.
Does the Florida Government Have to Prove Beyond a Reasonable Doubt that the Seized Property Was Used to Commit a Crime or Was the Fruit of a Crime?
Unlike criminal proceedings, where the prosecution must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that an individual is guilty of a crime, the standard of proof in property seizure and forfeiture proceedings falls to the property’s owner. Florida requires the individual whose property has been seized for alleged civil or criminal wrongdoing to prove that it was not used to commit a crime or was not the fruit of a crime.
Challenging an asset seizure and forfeiture case can be a highly complex process. In short, the government will not take your word for it. Our experienced forfeiture proceedings attorneys in Tampa will outline your legal rights and options, gather and present evidence to support your case. and challenge the state’s argument for forfeiture. Contact us today to learn more.
Can Federal and Florida Government Officials Pursue Forfeiture Actions for the Same Property?
Yes. Both federal and Florida government officials can pursue forfeiture actions for the same property under certain circumstances when the property’s connection to criminal activity involves state and federal laws.
Can Innocent Owners Lose Their Property in Florida Forfeiture Proceedings?
Yes. Just as innocent people can be convicted of crimes they did not commit, innocent owners can potentially lose their property in forfeiture proceedings. This is typically the result of an individual believing their innocence will result in the property being returned. However, the burden of proof falls on the property owner, which means the government does not have to prove it was used during or was the fruit of a criminal or civil act. The property owner must prove it was not.
Innocent property owners have the right to contest the forfeiture and demonstrate no knowledge or involvement in criminal activity. We can help. Contact our dedicated forfeiture proceedings lawyers in Tampa today to ensure your rights and property are protected.