Shorstein & Lasnetski, LLC recently represented a person who was traveling through Jacksonville on his way back from a nearby poker tournament. Having had some success at the poker tournament, he was bringing a large sum of cash back home with him. When he went through the security line at the airport, he was stopped and escorted to a room by the Jacksonville airport police where his luggage was searched. At this point, there was no indication that he had broken any laws. When the police searched his belongings, they did not find anything illegal. They did, however, find a large amount of cash in his luggage. The police officers questioned him as to where he had been, where he was going and how he obtained the cash.
Due to terrorism and the safety concerns inherent in air travel, a person traveling through an airport does not have the same privacy rights that one would have in his/her home or vehicle. However, that does not mean that the police can detain a person, search his/her property and interrogate him/her without any evidence of criminal activity. However, that is exactly what happened here. The police found no evidence of any criminal activity and knew nothing about this individual other than the fact that he was traveling with cash. He would have been within his rights to refuse to answer any of their questions and demand to leave, but he decided to explain to them that he just came from a poker tournament where he won the money. The police were not satisfied with this response and seized his money. They then allowed him to fly home since they had no legal basis to detain him. Of course, they had no legal basis to take his money, but they did that anyway.
When the police seize property from someone, the government then has to file paperwork indicating an intention to forfeit, or retain ownership of, the property. While the client hoped that someone with even a basic grasp of the Constitution and Florida forfeiture laws would review this case and realize the money was improperly seized so it could be quickly returned to him, the opposite occurred. The government agency that reviewed the case filed paperwork to have the money forfeited to the government.
After fighting the case and illustrating that there was no legal basis to have seized the money, the money was ultimately returned to our client. However, this is an example of how the government has tremendous authority to detain people, search their property, interrogate them and even take their property with little to no evidence of criminal activity. If this happens to you and you want to assert your rights to recover your property, it is important to speak with a law firm that is well versed in the Florida forfeiture laws and the methods the government uses to try and take property from citizens. Feel free to contact us for a free consultation about your rights.