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What to know about civil asset forfeiture laws in Florida

If you are accused of a drug crime including drug sales or trafficking, you should know that law enforcement agents can confiscate anything they believe was involved in or resulted from the crime. This means you can have your car, money and other assets seized by the authorities. This is civil asset forfeiture, and it is a common, yet controversial, practice all across the U.S.

Law enforcement agencies can keep a percentage of seized assets, which financially incentivizes policing. Not surprisingly, residents in Florida and in other states across the country have fought back, seeking reforms and changes to the practice. These efforts have been successful in this state, which will have some of the most "robust protections" for residents, according to a state Sen. Jeff Brandes.

Beginning next month, the law will require police to arrest a person before seizing certain assets, which was previously unnecessary. Further, the financial incentive to seize assets will be countered by fees that will have to be paid by the seizing agency. This means that they will have to pay up to $2,500 to take property, which will go to the person arrested if he or she is found innocent.

It is critical to note, however, that the arrest requirement is not in place for the seizure of cash. This means that police can still take money if they believe it was profit from drug sales, even if an arrest is not made. If the money cannot be linked to a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, it can be recovered.

You will also want to keep in mind that civil asset forfeiture laws are different for federal agencies and vary from state to state.

If you have had property or money seized by authorities, you have every right to be upset. Not only can you feel like your rights have been violated, you can struggle to get the legal help you need because your assets have been confiscated.

However, you need to know that you are not powerless. You can consult an attorney who understands these challenges to examine the options for recovering your assets and defending yourself against any charges that may have been filed.

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