Today Senate Bill 1044, forfeiture of contraband, by Senators Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville), along with Representatives Matt Caldwell (R-Lehigh Acres) and Larry Metz (R-Groveland), passed the House unanimously following unanimous passage by the Senate. The bill now heads to the Governor to be signed into law.
“This bill sends a powerful message to Floridians: the government cannot seize your property without making an arrest,” stated Senator Brandes. “These sweeping reforms to civil forfeiture institute major consumer protections and prevent abuses against the property rights of Floridians. I hope the Governor will join both houses of the Florida legislature and support these critical reforms by signing this bill into law.”
“This bill represents the best of the legislative process. It changed a lot over the course of session, but I think we ended in a better place than we started by protecting citizens’ rights, and still allowing law enforcement to do its job,” stated Senator Aaron Bean. “We brought together seemingly competing interests and found consensus. That’s rare for any bill, let alone one that has been as hotly contested as this one has. It’s a great day for Florida.”
“This process began with the desire to promote liberty and preserve Floridians’ right to due process,” stated Representative Matt Caldwell. “Law enforcement should not be able to seize your property without an arrest. The bill puts necessary safeguards in place to protect innocent property owners, and I am proud of the work we’ve done this year to address this important issue.”
“This much needed reform legislation provides added protections, oversight and accountability for the remedy of contraband forfeiture,” stated Representative Larry Metz. “It protects individual due process and property rights while preserving the use of the remedy as a crime fighting tool.”
Under the bill, a seizure of assets or property may only take place following the arrest of a property owner, with limited exceptions. The bill requires an agency to demonstrate probable cause within 10 days following every seizure. Additionally, the bill increases forfeiture filing fees and establishes bond requirements on the agency payable to property owners when the agency is unsuccessful in a forfeiture. The bill comes amid growing national attention on the use of civil forfeiture. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the restructuring of federal asset forfeiture protocols, and the Institute for Justice criticized Florida’s asset forfeiture laws in a 2010 report, grading the state “D” on the issue.
For more information on SB 1044, please visit: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2016/1044
CONTACT: Chris Spencer, 850-487-5022