In the state of Florida, it is relatively common for Florida police to seize property they believe may be used to further a crime or criminal activity. This concept is known as civil asset forfeiture, but a new federal policy could allow police to legally take a Florida resident’s property even if they are not charged with committing a crime.
How a New Federal Policy Could Undermine Florida’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Law
Florida lawmakers made significant steps toward reforming police seizures in 2016, choosing to prevent police from taking a Florida citizen’s property in the vast majority of circumstances. Police were still permitted to seize the property of individuals charged with committing a crime, however.
For all intents and purposes, a new federal policy announced in July of 2017 is poised to undo these recent changes. The policy, announced by the Department of Justice, aims to reverse a federal policy that restricted state and local law enforcement’s ability to seize property by citing federal law.
This former policy was implemented under former President Obama, but the new federal policy’s reversal of the Obama-era policy will allow Florida law enforcement to ignore the state law that was passed in 2016. Since federal law supersedes state law, local and state agencies in Florida will once again be able to seize property without charging individuals with a crime, thereby splitting the value of the property with federal law enforcement agencies.
Despite the fact, President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions representing the Republican party, Florida’s Republican lawmakers have serious concerns about federal overreach based on the latest federal policy. Sen. Jeff Brandes, a sponsor of Florida’s 2016 civil asset forfeiture law, says that he hopes the Supreme Court will step in and curtail this policy, citing a concern for federal overreach that harms a citizen’s right to due process.
For the time being, however, Florida residents should be aware of the fact that the new federal policy in some key respects renders Florida’s civil asset forfeiture law irrelevant. If you or a loved one has their property under the new policy, the mere fact that you were not arrested may not be enough to justify a claim that law enforcement unreasonably seized your property.
John F. Greene is a Florida criminal defense lawyer who represents criminal defendants from his Destin office. John also represents criminal defendants and individuals who have had property unreasonably seized in Northwest Florida and the Emerald Coast, including Santa Rosa, Walton, Bay and Okaloosa Counties. John also represents defendants in the communities of Destin, Niceville, Fort Walton Beach, Panama City and Santa Rosa Beach.
If you need a legal defense against charges or a lawyer who will fight against unlawful police practices, talk to Florida defense lawyer John F. Greene. Contact John or call 850-424-6833.