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Forfeiture

Florida law allows the seizure of various properties. When one has had their items taken by the government or law officials, it is called "forfeiture." Have you recently been threatened by law enforcement or the court system?  If so, it is recommended that you get legal representation.

Forfeiture can involve the seizure of cash, vehicles, housing and other possessions. The practice of forfeiture is legal in Florida. However, law enforcement or the justice system may abuse or misuse their power of forfeiture.

If you have received a Notice of Seizure of Personal Property and Right to Adversarial Preliminary Hearing, it is important that you act now. You must file a request for an adverse preliminary hearing within fifteen days. You have no time to wait, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Galigani Law Firm.

Gainesville Lawyers for Forfeiture Seizures in Florida

The attorneys at Galigani Law Firm are experienced in handling forfeiture cases with promising results. We have had over twenty years of experience in Florida criminal law, and are passionate about defending Floridian's rights. Galigani Law Firm has been recognized legally by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), the Eighth  Judicial Circuit Bar Administration, and the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys (FACDL).

Our attorneys accept clients throughout the greater Alachua County area and nearby counties including Gilchrist County, Union County, Bradford County, Levy County, Marion County, Alachua County, Baker County, and Columbia County.

Take charge of your possessions again. Call (352) 375-0812 or submit an online contact form today.

Overview of Forfeiture Seizures in Florida


What is Forfeiture?

The term "forfeiture" is defined under Florida Statute § 932.701 as:

  • Any contraband article, motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft, other personal property, or real property used in violation of any provision of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act; or
  • Upon, or by means of which any violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act has taken or is taking place, may be seized and shall be forfeited subject to the provisions of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.

State and federal laws apply to forfeiture seizures. Normally, the reason why property is seized under Florida law is because the property is believed to have been obtained through illegal activity, or purchased with profits obtained through illegal activity.


Florida vs. Federal Forfeiture Laws

Florida Statute § 932.701 indicates that if there is any violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act then law enforcement has the right to seize the related property. Normally, the courts will seize property if the owner of the property is arrested for a criminal offense.

The State of Florida is required to provide written notification that they intend to permanently seize the property after initial seizure. A complaint must be filed for the forfeiture within 45 days after seizure. Once the complaint is filed forfeiture proceeding will commence, meaning a hearing or trail in which the court or jury determines whether the subject property shall be forfeited. This is also known as an an adversarial preliminary hearing.

Any person violating 21 U.S. Code § 853 must forfeit their property to the United States. Like Florida law, property is seized under the federal government if it was obtained through criminal means, used for criminal means, or engaged in criminal enterprise.

The owner of the property has 35 days to file a judicial claim with the seizing agency. After this, the U.S. Attorney has 90 days to review the claim and see if it is fit to file a civil complaint to the U.S. District Court. Usually, criminal forfeiture is carried out in a sentence following a conviction and is a punitive act against the offender.


Common Reasons for Forfeiture

Some of the most common reasons for property seizure include the following:

  • Property such as boats, real estate, vehicles, that was obtained through drug trafficking, fraud or other legal activity
  • Money obtained through drug trafficking
  • Motor vehicles, real estate, or other property that was used during the course of committing drug crimes or fraud
  • Money or property related to a money laundering case
  • RICO violations and cases involving racketeering
  • Money obtained through fraud, such as by mortgage fraud, mail fraud, or wire fraud

Possible Defenses to Forfeiture

To make a seizure legal, it must be proven that the property was obtained through criminal means. However, sometimes law enforcement utilizes questionable approaches whilst doing forfeiture. For example, law enforcement may do a vehicular seizure during a drug arrest.

A practiced criminal defense attorney may be able return your property by exposing law enforcement's ineffective reasoning for the seizure to the court. A few possible defenses against forfeiture include:

  • The seizing officer acted without probable cause;
  • The actual owner of the property is an innocent owner who was not knowledgeable of any criminal activity; or
  • The forfeiture was an excessive response to the alleged crime.

Even if your situation does not apply to these defenses, an experienced criminal defense attorney can formulate a formidable defense with you. If you have had property or assets seized recently, it is in your best interest to get legal representation.


Additional Resources

Florida Statute § 932.701 – Visit the website of Florida Legislature and read the legal language surrounding forfeiture and the forfeiture process. See the specifics around the statute, the definitions for the legal terminology, and exceptions to the statute.

Forfeiture.Gov – Visit the United States Department of Justice and Asset Forfeiture Management Staff website, and read a comprehensive list of pending forfeiture notices for all federal agencies listed. Learn how to file a claim or petition for the purpose of recovering property, and obtain links to forms for federal claims or petitions.

Governor Rick Scott Signs Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill – Visit the website of the Drug Police Alliance, a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance policies and attitudes that best reduce the harm of drug use and drug prohibition. Read an article regarding Florida Governor Rick Scott, and his stance on Florida seizure laws and civil asset forfeiture.


Find an Attorney for Forfeiture in Gainesville, Florida

Have you had your property seized recently by the State or the federal government? You do not have a lot of time. Florida only lets you file a claim within the first fifteen days of your notice. The government, on the other hand, only gives you ten days to file a claim within receiving your notice.

If you want to recover your property, it is best that you contact an experienced criminal defense forfeiture attorney. The attorneys at Galigani Law Firm are qualified at Florida seizure laws. We understand how stressful it can be to lose your property without warning, and we want to help guide you through this process. Our attorneys have been practicing criminal law in Florida for over twenty years. Galigani Law Firm has also been recognized for our legal excellence such as our Board Certification in Criminal Law by the Florida Bar's Certification Board. This certification is an honor that less than one percent Florida criminal defense lawyers have. Put yourself in the most capable hands. Get in contact with the attorneys at Galigani Law Firm.

We have recovered property for clients throughout the greater 8th Judicial Circuit area and nearby counties including Starke in Bradford County, Gainesville in Alachua County, Bronson in Levy County, Macclenny in Baker County, Trenton in Gilchrist County, Lake Butler in Union County, Lake City in Columbia County, and Ocala in Marion County.

Our attorneys have worked cases to recover property from various law officials and seizing agencies including the Office of Alachua County Sheriff, the Trenton Police Department, the Office of Union County Sheriff, the Gainesville Police Department, the Office of Union County's Sheriff, the Lake City Police Department, the Office of Baker County's Sheriff, the Ocala Police Department, the University of Florida Police Department (UFPD), and the Office of Levy County's Sheriff.

Dial (352) 375-0812 or schedule an online contact form for a free consultation for your case today.


This article was last updated by Jordan Anderson, on June 27th, 2018.