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.