Policing for Profit: Civil Asset Forfeiture Affecting Thousands in Tampa Bay
Did you know that you do not have to be charged with a crime for the police to take your personal property, such as your car or cash, during an arrest? Civil forfeiture, a legal process by which law enforcement seizes assets from individuals suspected of involvement with crime or illegal activity, is becoming rampant in the Tampa Bay area. During an arrest, law enforcement can take your personal property if they suspect it was used as a means to commit a crime or was obtained with the proceeds of a crime. Even if you are never charged with a crime, police can keep your property, and oftentimes it is never returned to the owner. What do the police do with all the property they take? They sell it and use the money to fund agency budgets. In 2014, it was reported that the Tampa Police Department alone seized 1,500 vehicles and made over $1 million in total property seizures.
Know Your Rights:
If your property is seized during an arrest, you have certain rights you should be aware of:
• You have a right to be notified of the seizure in writing either at the time of the seizure, or within 5 working days after the seizure of your property. The notice must state that you are entitled to request an Adversarial Preliminary Hearing (APH).
• You have 15 days from the date of receiving the notice of seizure to request an APH in writing by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the seizing agency.
• The APH must be held within 10 days after the request is received by the agency.
Contact our office if your property has been seized by law enforcement. Remember that the clock starts running the day you are notified in writing of the seizure. We are experienced in handling civil forfeiture in the Tampa Bay area and will fight for your rights.
To see an excellent (and humorous) explanation of civil forfeiture take a look at this video: