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Civil Asset Forfeiture in Florida: Policies and Practices, Report No. 15-10, November 2015
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  • Civil asset forfeiture is law enforcement’s seizure and potential transfer of ownership of real or personal property that is used or attempted to be used in criminal activity. Once assets are seized, a law enforcement agency may file a claim for forfeiture of the assets in civil court, and once forfeited, those assets become the property of the agency.
  • There is currently no requirement for local law enforcement agencies to report seizures and forfeiture activity under state law. According to survey data obtained from about half of local law enforcement agencies in Florida, these agencies make thousands of seizures annually, mostly related to drug offenses. Vehicles and currency are the most commonly seized assets, with real property rarely seized. While most assets seized under state law are forfeited, many assets are returned to the owners, either in whole or part. Only 16% of the seizure actions are contested by a request for an adversarial hearing, and 1% end in a civil trial.
  • Assets seized under state law can be used by law enforcement agencies for a variety of law enforcement-related purposes, such as providing additional equipment or expertise. Some forfeited assets are donated to substance abuse and crime prevention programs. Responding agencies reported spending over $12 million in forfeited assets during Fiscal Year 2013-14. The Legislature may wish to consider revising state law to require law enforcement agencies to report information on the frequency and extent of civil asset forfeiture in Florida. In addition, the Legislature may want to consider reforms that other states have pursued to increase protections for property owners and limit law enforcement use of forfeiture proceeds.

Which Government Program Summaries contain related information?

Department of Law Enforcement

    Copies of this report in print or alternate accessible format may be obtained by telephone (850/488-0021), by FAX (850/487-9213), in person, or by mail (OPPAGA Report Production, Claude Pepper Building, Room 312, 111 W. Madison St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-1475).
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