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The Florida Statutes

The 2016 Florida Statutes

Title XLVII
CRIMINAL PROCEDURE AND CORRECTIONS
Chapter 932
PROVISIONS SUPPLEMENTAL TO CRIMINAL PROCEDURE LAW
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F.S. 932.703
932.703 Forfeiture of contraband article; exceptions.
(1)(a) A contraband article, vessel, motor vehicle, aircraft, other personal property, or real property used in violation of any provision of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, or in, upon, or by means of which any violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act has taken or is taking place, may be seized and shall be forfeited subject to the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act. A seizure may occur only if the owner of the property is arrested for a criminal offense that forms the basis for determining that the property is a contraband article under s. 932.701, or one or more of the following circumstances apply:
1. The owner of the property cannot be identified after a diligent search, or the person in possession of the property denies ownership and the owner of the property cannot be identified by means that are available to the employee or agent of the seizing agency at the time of the seizure;
2. The owner of the property is a fugitive from justice or is deceased;
3. An individual who does not own the property is arrested for a criminal offense that forms the basis for determining that the property is a contraband article under s. 932.701 and the owner of the property had actual knowledge of the criminal activity. Evidence that an owner received written notification from a law enforcement agency and acknowledged receipt of the notification in writing, that the seized asset had been used in violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act on a prior occasion by the arrested person, may be used to establish actual knowledge;
4. The owner of the property agrees to be a confidential informant as defined in s. 914.28. The seizing agency may not use the threat of property seizure or forfeiture to coerce the owner of the property to enter into a confidential informant agreement. The seizing agency shall return the property to the owner if criminal charges are not filed against the owner and the active criminal investigation ends or if the owner ceases being a confidential informant, unless the agency includes the final forfeiture of the property as a component of the confidential informant agreement; or
5. The property is a monetary instrument. For purposes of this subparagraph, the term “monetary instrument” means coin or currency of the United States or any other country; a traveler’s check; a personal check; a bank check; a cashier’s check; a money order; a bank draft of any country; an investment security or negotiable instrument in bearer form or in other form such that title passes upon delivery; a prepaid or stored value card or other device that is the equivalent of money and can be used to obtain cash, property, or services; or gold, silver, or platinum bullion or coins.
(b) After property is seized pursuant to the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, regardless of whether the civil complaint has been filed, all settlements must be personally approved by the head of the law enforcement agency that seized the property. If the agency head is unavailable and a delay would adversely affect the settlement, approval may be given by a subordinate of the agency head who is designated to grant such approval.
(c) If at least 90 days have elapsed since the initial seizure of the property and the seizing agency has failed to locate the owner after making a diligent effort, the seized property is deemed a contraband article that is subject to forfeiture under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.
(d)1. The seizing agency may not use the seized property for any purpose until the rights to, interest in, and title to the seized property are perfected in accordance with the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act. This section does not prohibit use or operation necessary for reasonable maintenance of seized property. Reasonable efforts shall be made to maintain seized property in such a manner as to minimize loss of value.
2. Unless otherwise expressly agreed to in writing by the parties, the agency seeking forfeiture of the seized property is responsible for any damage to the property and any storage fees or maintenance costs applicable to the property. If more than one agency seeks forfeiture of the property, the division of liability under this subparagraph may be governed by the terms of an agreement between the agencies.
(2)(a) When a seizure of property is made under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, the seizing agency shall apply, within 10 business days after the date of the seizure, to a court of competent jurisdiction for an order determining whether probable cause exists for the seizure of the property. The application for the probable cause determination must be accompanied by a sworn affidavit and may be filed electronically by reliable electronic means.
(b) The court must determine whether:
1. The owner was arrested under paragraph (1)(a), and if not, whether an exception to the arrest requirement specified in paragraph (1)(a) applies; and
2. Probable cause exists for the property seizure under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.
(c) If the court finds that the requirements specified in paragraph (1)(a) were satisfied and that probable cause exists for the seizure, the forfeiture may proceed as set forth in the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, and no additional probable cause determination is required unless the claimant requests an adversarial preliminary hearing as set forth in the act. Upon such a finding, the court shall issue a written order finding probable cause for the seizure and order the property held until the issue of a determination of title is resolved pursuant to the procedures defined in the act.
(d) If the court finds that the requirements in paragraph (1)(a) were not satisfied or that probable cause does not exist for the seizure, any forfeiture hold, lien, lis pendens, or other civil encumbrance must be released within 5 days.
(e) The court may seal any portion of the application and the record of any proceeding under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act which is exempt or confidential and exempt from s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution or may otherwise be sealed pursuant to Rule 2.420, Florida Rules of Judicial Administration.
(3)(a) Personal property may be seized at the time of the violation or subsequent to the violation, if the person entitled to notice is notified at the time of the seizure or by certified mail, return receipt requested, that there is a right to an adversarial preliminary hearing after the seizure to determine whether probable cause exists to believe that such property has been or is being used in violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act. Seizing agencies shall make a diligent effort to notify the person entitled to notice of the seizure. Notice provided by certified mail must be mailed within 5 working days after the seizure and must state that a person entitled to notice may request an adversarial preliminary hearing within 15 days after receiving such notice. When a postseizure, adversarial preliminary hearing as provided in this section is desired, a request must be made in writing by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the seizing agency. The seizing agency shall set and notice the hearing, which must be held within 10 days after the request is received or as soon as practicable thereafter.
(b) Real property may not be seized or restrained, other than by lis pendens, subsequent to a violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act until the persons entitled to notice are afforded the opportunity to attend the preseizure adversarial preliminary hearing. A lis pendens may be obtained by any method authorized by law. Notice of the adversarial preliminary hearing shall be by certified mail, return receipt requested. The purpose of the adversarial preliminary hearing is to determine whether probable cause exists to believe that such property has been used in violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act. The seizing agency shall make a diligent effort to notify any person entitled to notice of the seizure. The preseizure adversarial preliminary hearing provided herein shall be held within 10 days of the filing of the lis pendens or as soon as practicable.
(c) When an adversarial preliminary hearing is held, the court shall review the verified affidavit and any other supporting documents and take any testimony to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that the property was used, is being used, was attempted to be used, or was intended to be used in violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act. If probable cause is established, the court shall authorize the seizure or continued seizure of the subject contraband. A copy of the findings of the court shall be provided to any person entitled to notice.
(d) If the court determines that probable cause exists to believe that such property was used in violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, the court shall order the property restrained by the least restrictive means to protect against disposal, waste, or continued illegal use of such property pending disposition of the forfeiture proceeding. The court may order the claimant to post a bond or other adequate security equivalent to the value of the property.
(4) Neither replevin nor any other action to recover any interest in such property shall be maintained in any court, except as provided in this act; however, such action may be maintained if forfeiture proceedings are not initiated within 45 days after the date of seizure. However, if good cause is shown, the court may extend the aforementioned prohibition to 60 days.
(5) In any incident in which possession of any contraband article defined in s. 932.701(2)(a) constitutes a felony, the vessel, motor vehicle, aircraft, other personal property, or real property in or on which such contraband article is located at the time of seizure shall be contraband subject to forfeiture. It shall be presumed in the manner provided in s. 90.302(2) that the vessel, motor vehicle, aircraft, other personal property, or real property in which or on which such contraband article is located at the time of seizure is being used or was attempted or intended to be used in a manner to facilitate the transportation, carriage, conveyance, concealment, receipt, possession, purchase, sale, barter, exchange, or giving away of a contraband article defined in s. 932.701(2).
(6) The court shall order the forfeiture of any other property of a claimant, excluding lienholders, up to the value of any property subject to forfeiture under this section if any of the property described in this section:
(a) Cannot be located;
(b) Has been transferred to, sold to, or deposited with, a third party;
(c) Has been placed beyond the jurisdiction of the court;
(d) Has been substantially diminished in value by any act or omission of the person in possession of the property; or
(e) Has been commingled with any property which cannot be divided without difficulty.
(7)(a) Property may not be forfeited under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act unless the seizing agency establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that the owner either knew, or should have known after a reasonable inquiry, that the property was being employed or was likely to be employed in criminal activity.
(b) A bona fide lienholder’s interest that has been perfected in the manner prescribed by law prior to the seizure may not be forfeited under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act unless the seizing agency establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that the lienholder had actual knowledge, at the time the lien was made, that the property was being employed or was likely to be employed in criminal activity. If a lienholder’s interest is not subject to forfeiture under the requirements of this section, such interest shall be preserved by the court by ordering the lienholder’s interest to be paid as provided in s. 932.7055.
(c) Property titled or registered between husband and wife jointly by the use of the conjunctives “and,” “and/or,” or “or,” in the manner prescribed by law prior to the seizure, may not be forfeited under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act unless the seizing agency establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that the coowner either knew or had reason to know, after reasonable inquiry, that such property was employed or was likely to be employed in criminal activity.
(d) A vehicle that is rented or leased from a company engaged in the business of renting or leasing vehicles, which vehicle was rented or leased in the manner prescribed by law prior to the seizure, may not be forfeited under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, and no fine, penalty, or administrative charge, other than reasonable and customary charges for towing and storage, shall be imposed by any governmental agency on the company which rented or leased the vehicle, unless the seizing agency establishes by preponderance of the evidence that the renter or lessor had actual knowledge, at the time the vehicle was rented or leased, that the vehicle was being employed or was likely to be employed in criminal activity. When a vehicle that is rented or leased from a company engaged in the business of renting or leasing vehicles is seized under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, upon learning the address or phone number of the company, the seizing law enforcement agency shall, as soon as practicable, inform the company that the vehicle has been seized and is available for the company to take possession upon payment of the reasonable and customary charges for towing and storage.
(8) Any interest in, title to, or right to property titled or registered jointly by the use of the conjunctives “and,” “and/or,” or “or” held by a coowner, other than property held jointly between husband and wife, may not be forfeited unless the seizing agency establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that the coowner either knew, or had reason to know, after reasonable inquiry, that the property was employed or was likely to be employed in criminal activity. When the interests of each culpable coowner are forfeited, any remaining coowners shall be afforded the opportunity to purchase the forfeited interest in, title to, or right to the property from the seizing law enforcement agency. If any remaining coowner does not purchase such interest, the seizing agency may hold the property in coownership, sell its interest in the property, liquidate its interest in the property, or dispose of its interest in the property in any other reasonable manner.
(9) It is an affirmative defense to a forfeiture proceeding that the nexus between the property sought to be forfeited and the commission of any underlying violation was incidental or entirely accidental. The value of the property sought to be forfeited in proportion to any other factors must not be considered in any determination as to this affirmative defense.
History.s. 3, ch. 74-385; s. 3, ch. 80-68; s. 496, ch. 81-259; s. 1, ch. 85-316; s. 3, ch. 89-148; s. 3, ch. 92-54; s. 3, ch. 95-265; s. 32, ch. 96-247; s. 3, ch. 99-234; ss. 70, 71, ch. 99-248; s. 6, ch. 2004-39; s. 31, ch. 2004-344; s. 2, ch. 2016-179.
Note.Former s. 943.43.