As criminal defense lawyers in the Jacksonville and North Florida area, we have seen quite a few asset forfeiture cases lately. Asset forfeiture law is not technically criminal law, but it has a lot of similarities to it. A law firm that is familiar with search and seizure law and asset forfeiture law is important when the police seize a person’s property with the idea that they intend to keep, or forfeit, the property. An asset forfeiture case in Florida can start in many ways. A police officer can make a traffic stop of a person, determine that he/she is committing a crime and seize his/her money and or vehicle. Or, it can be a more premeditated effort based on an investigation. For instance, we have seen several incidents recently where the police investigate convenience stores for selling what they allege is synthetic marijuana. They send in undercover officers to make a few buys and then come back with uniformed officers to seize money, bank account information and merchandise.
Most people think the police can only seize and forfeit a person’s or business’s property if they can and intend to prove the person or owner of the business committed a crime. That is not always the case. We have handled cases where the police have seized over a million dollars from a person and business without filing criminal charges at all. We have seen cases where the police seized hundreds of thousands of dollars and made a criminal arrest, but they tried to keep the money even after the criminal charges were dropped.
If there is one thing the government likes, it is money, particularly other people’s money. Florida has some strange laws that allow the police to try and take people’s money and assets whether a crime is charged and pursued or not. If you have had your money or assets seized by the police and want to make sure your rights are protected and your ability to recover your property is preserved, it is important to talk to an attorney familiar and experienced with the Florida asset forfeiture laws. Feel free to contact us for a free consultation.