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Attorney for Asset Forfeiture in Pasco County

Did a law enforcement officer in Pasco County, take your money, vehicle, firearm or other personal property? If you received a Notice of Seizure Forfeiture Complaint, then you should immediately file a "Demand for an Adversarial Preliminary Hearing" to determine whether there is probable cause to believe the property was used in violation of the Act. The notice will tell you: 

The notice will tell you: 

IF YOU DESIRE SUCH A HEARING, you must make a request in writing by certified mail, return receipt requested, to ________(Name of Seizing Agency)_______ at the address listed below, within fifteen (15) days of receiving this Notice. This request must be accompanied by a copy of this Notice. The seizing agency will notify you of the time, date, and place of that hearing.

An attorney can help you demand the hearing. Remember that asserting your right to an adversarial preliminary hearing is often the best way to get your property back quickly. If you take no action within the first ten days, then many of your rights are lost forever and it will be much more difficult to get your property back.

To find out more about how to demand an adversarial preliminary hearing within the first fifteen days after the law enforcement officers seized your property, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm can demand your Adversarial Preliminary Hearing today. In many cases, we can negotiate the return of your property within a matter of days or hours after you retain us. 


The Administrative Order for Asset Forfeiture Actions in Pasco County, FL

A recent administrative order issued in the Circuit Court of the Sixth Judicial Circuit for Pasco County and Pinellas County addresses uniform procedures for forfeiture of personal property. The latest administrative order 2016-039 PA/PI-CIR rescinded the prior orders, Administrative Orders 95-97 and PA-CIR 00-20. The order was signed on June 22, 2016, by Anthony Rondolino, Chief Judge. The order also includes sample forms for the following:  

  • Notice of Seizure Forfeiture Complaint
  • Ex- Parte Application for Seizure Probable Cause Determination
  • Ex-Parte Order Finding Probable Cause for Seizure
  • Ex-Parte Order Denying Probable Cause for Seizure

One of the best ways to understand the prosecutors for fighting for the return of personal property seized for asset forfeiture is to read the administrative order.


Florida's Contraband Forfeiture Act

The Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act sets forth the procedural requirements governing the forfeiture of contraband articles. See §§ 932.701–932.7062, Florida Statutes. Administrative Orders 95-97 and PA-CIR-00-20 were enacted in Pasco County and Pinellas County for the Sixth Judicial Circuit.

The order implements the procedures for asset forfeiture in a uniform manner within the courts of the Sixth Judicial Circuit. Recent statutory changes passed by the Florida Legislature require these procedures to be updated.

In order to provide for the uniform disposition of forfeiture proceedings and ensure consistency amongst all seizing agencies within the Sixth Judicial Circuit, and pursuant to the authority of the Chief Judge in accordance with Article V, section 2, Florida Constitution, Rule of Judicial Administration 2.215, and section 43.26, Florida Statutes, the order entered the administrative order.


Circuit Civil Forfeiture Proceedings Generally

In accordance with section 932.704(2), Florida Statutes, of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, all civil forfeiture cases will be heard before a judge of the civil division. In Pinellas County, the Chief Judge (or his/her designee) was designated as the primary Circuit Court Judge of the Civil Division for all forfeiture cases. In Pasco County, the forfeiture cases are assigned to any civil section judge in the same manner other circuit civil cases are assigned.

Because forfeiture proceedings are civil proceedings, court reporters shall not be provided at county expense. The seizing agency and/or Claimant(s) are responsible for securing the services of and paying the cost of court reporting services. For anyone fighting for the return of your property, it is extremely important that you secure a court report so that a transcript can be created for your adverse preliminary hearing. It is extremely difficult to appeal a decision without a transcript


Initial proceedings prior to filing a complaint

Section 932.703, Florida Statutes, recognizes the fact that after a seizure under the Forfeiture Act prior to filing a civil complaint specific events may occur that require court action. During the 45 day time period between the seizure and the deadline for filing a formal civil action there is a requirement under section 932.703(2)(a), Florida Statutes, that the seizing agency apply to the circuit court for an order determining the existence of probable cause.

Florida Statute Section 932.703(3), also requires that the agency provide notice of the right to an adversarial preliminary hearing and that such a hearing may be required prior to filing a complaint. To ensure an adequate record of these initial documents is maintained and a civil case number is available for these filings.


Application for an Ex-Parte Order Finding Probable Cause for Seizure

Under the administrative order that became effective on July 1, 2016, to obtain a ruling pursuant to section 932.703(2)(a), Florida Statutes, the seizing agency shall, within 10 business days of the seizure, submit an Application for Seizure Probable Cause Determination with an accompanying affidavit to the court for ex-parte review and ruling.

The submission packet must include a proposed Order Finding Probable Cause for Seizure and (as an alternative) a proposed Order Denying Probable Cause for Seizure. The Application for Seizure Probable Cause Determination and the proposed orders shall be substantially the same format as Attachment A of this Order.

In addition to an original order, copies and envelopes should be included for distribution by the judicial assistant. In Pinellas County, the application shall be to the Chief Judge (or his/her designee). In Pasco County the application shall be to the civil judge assigned by the clerk to the action.

If there has not yet been a complaint filed or a circuit civil number issued for the action by the Clerk, the seizing agency shall obtain a case number from the Clerk of Court to be used on these papers prior to submission for ex-parte review.

After the assigned Judge has made his/her findings, the judicial assistant will file the original Application and the attached affidavit with the Clerk of Court. The original signed Order (regarding the probable cause determination) will also be filed with the Clerk of Court by the judicial assistant and copies will be mailed to the parties using the return envelopes that were provided by the agency.


Notice of Seizure & Right to Adversary Probable Cause Hearing

Section 932.703(3), Florida Statutes, includes a right to an adversary preliminary hearing upon request. Pursuant to this statute a specific notice of this right must be provided. All law enforcement agencies within the Sixth Judicial Circuit shall use a Notice of Seizure in substantially the same format as Attachment B of this Order.

The seizing agency shall complete a Notice(s) of Seizure containing the name and address of the person(s) who may have an interest in the property and who are known to the seizing agency.

When any person receiving the notice requests an adversary hearing in conformity with the statute the seizing agency is then required to set and notice a hearing. The seizing agency shall file both the Notice of Seizure & Right to Adversary Probable Cause Hearing and the responding party’s Request for Adversary Hearing with the Clerk of Court.

If there has not yet been a formal complaint filed or a civil number issued as a result of a prior ex-parte application for probable cause, the Clerk of Court shall assign a civil case number for the proceedings and maintain the documents in a civil file.

In Pinellas County, the seizing agency shall schedule the Adversary Preliminary Hearing before the Chief Judge (or his/her designee) to be heard within 10 days of the request or as soon as practicable thereafter. In Pasco County, the hearing shall be scheduled before the civil judge assigned to the action by the Clerk of Court.


Complaint for Forfeiture and § 932.704(5)(c), Florida Statutes, Administrative Order

All counsel representing seizing agencies seeking forfeiture in the Sixth Judicial Circuit shall use a "Complaint for Forfeiture" in substantially the same format as Attachment C of this Order.

Section 932.704(5)(c), Florida Statutes, indicates the court shall require any claimant who desires to contest the forfeiture to file and serve upon the attorney for the seizing agency any responsive pleading and affirmative defenses within 20 days after the receipt of the complaint. To comply with this provision the court has entered Administrative Order 2016-038 Notice to Claimant of Seizure and Filing Requirements under Florida Statutes Section 932.704(5)(c) and counsel for the agency shall include a copy of that order with the complaint and summons to be served upon the claimant. This order advising the claimant of the responsive pleading requirements is included as Attachment D.

To comply with this provision the court has entered Administrative Order 2016-038 Notice to Claimant of Seizure and Filing Requirements under Florida Statutes Section 932.704(5)(c) and counsel for the agency shall include a copy of that order with the complaint and summons to be served upon the claimant. This order advising the claimant of the responsive pleading requirements is included as Attachment D.

To comply with this provision the court has entered Administrative Order 2016-038 Notice to Claimant of Seizure and Filing Requirements under Florida Statutes Section 932.704(5)(c) and counsel for the agency shall include a copy of that order with the complaint and summons to be served upon the claimant. This order advising the claimant of the responsive pleading requirements is included as Attachment D.

Upon filing of the Complaint, affidavit and payment of the appropriate filing fee and posting a bond pursuant to section 932.704(4), Florida Statutes, to the Clerk of the Court shall cause the opening of a circuit civil proceeding which shall be treated in all regards in like manner. 

The administrative order for asset forfeiture actions in Pasco County and Pinellas County was send to all of the following interested parties:

  • All Judges
  • The Honorable Bernie McCabe, State Attorney
  • The Honorable Bob Dillinger, Public Defender
  • The Honorable Paula O’Neil, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Pasco County
  • The Honorable Ken Burke, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Pinellas County
  • Gay Inskeep, Trial Courts Administrator
  • Ngozi Acholonu, Assistant Regional Counsel
  • Lillian Simon, Director of Administrative Services, Pasco County
  • Nichole Alvarez-Sowles, Chief Operations Officer,
  • Pasco County Clerk’s Office Kimberly Thompson,
  • Director of Criminal Courts,
  • Pasco County Clerk’s Office
  • Law Enforcement Agencies, Pasco and Pinellas
  • Bar Associations, Pasco and Pinellas Counties
  • Law Libraries, Pasco and Pinellas Counties

IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT IN AND FOR PASCO AND PINELLAS COUNTIES, FLORIDA

IN RE:

FORFEITURE OF:

(Description of Property)

Case No.: ________________ /

EX-PARTE APPLICATION FOR SEIZURE PROBABLE CAUSE DETERMINATION

COMES NOW the Petitioner, ___(insert agency___), by and through undersigned counsel, pursuant to section 932.703(2), Florida Statutes, and says:

  1. On __(date)___, ___(insert agency)___, seized for forfeiture ___(describe property)___ as more fully set forth in the attached Notice of Seizure. This application is being presented within 10 business days of seizing that property.
  2. The requirements specified in paragraph (1)(a) of section 932.703, Florida Statutes, have been satisfied based on the fact that one of the following facts exist:
    • ________The owner of the property was arrested for a criminal offense that forms the basis for determining that the property is a contraband article under section 932.701, Florida Statutes;
    • _______ 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;
    • _________The owner is a fugitive from justice or is deceased;
    • _________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 section 932.701, Florida Statutes, and the owner of the property had actual knowledge of the criminal activity;
    • ________The owner of the property agrees to be a confidential informant as defined in section 914.28, Florida Statutes; or
    • _________The property is a monetary instrument.
  3. The facts and circumstances surrounding the seizure are contained in the attached affidavit, which is incorporated as if fully set forth herein.

WHEREFORE, Petitioner requests an Order Finding Probable Cause for Seizure pursuant to section 932.703(2), Florida Statutes.

ATTESTATION

I HEREBY ATTEST that a copy of this Motion and attached affidavit has been submitted to the Judge this day of ____________, 20___.

                                                                                                              Attorney signature block


IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT IN AND FOR PASCO AND PINELLAS COUNTIES, FLORIDA

IN RE:

FORFEITURE OF:

(Description of Property)

Case No.: ________________ /

EX-PARTE ORDER FINDING PROBABLE CAUSE FOR SEIZURE

THIS MATTER having come before this Court pursuant to section 932.703(2), Florida Statutes, within 10 business days of seizure of the above-described property by the ____(SeizingLawEnforcementAgency)_____ and the Court having reviewed the sworn affidavit, FINDS:

  1. The Agency applied for the probable cause determination within 10 business days after the date of the seizure.
  2. The requirements specified in paragraph (1)(a) of section 932.703, Florida Statutes, have been satisfied based on the fact that one of the following facts exist:
    • ______The owner of the property was arrested for a criminal offense that forms the basis for determining that the property is a contraband article under section 932.701, Florida Statutes;
    • ______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;
    • ______The owner is a fugitive from justice or is deceased;
    • ______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 section 932.701, Florida Statutes, and the owner of the property had actual knowledge of the criminal activity;
    • ______The owner of the property agrees to be a confidential informant as defined in section 914.28, Florida Statutes; or
    • ______The property is a monetary instrument.
  3. Probable cause exists to seize the above-described property under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.

Therefore the Court having found that the requirements of Florida Statute section 932.703(1)(a) were satisfied and that probable cause exists for the seizure, it is ORDERED that the property shall be held in conformity with the statute until further order of the Court.

DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers, in _________ County, Florida, this _____ day of , 20___.

                                                                               CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE

Copies to:

Attorney for Petitioner Claimant


IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT IN AND FOR PASCO AND PINELLAS COUNTIES, FLORIDA

IN RE:

FORFEITURE OF:

(Description of Property)

Case No.: ________________ /

EX-PARTE ORDER DENYING PROBABLE CAUSE FOR SEIZURE

THIS MATTER having come before this Court pursuant to section 932.703(2), Florida Statutes, within 10 business days of seizure of the above-described property by the ____(SeizingLawEnforcementAgency)_____ and the Court having reviewed the sworn affidavit, FINDS:

__________The Agency did not apply for the probable cause determination within 10 business days after the date of the seizure

AND/OR

__________The requirements specified in paragraph (1)(a) of section 932.703, Florida Statutes, have not been satisfied.

AND/OR

_________The Agency has not established probable cause for the seizure based on a review of the attached affidavit. Therefore the Court having found that the requirements of Florida Statute section 932.703(1) were not satisfied and that probable cause does not exists for the seizure, it is ORDERED that any forfeiture hold, lien, lis pendens, or other civil encumbrance shall be released in conformity with the statute within 5 days.

DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers, in ________ County, Florida, this _____ day of , 20___.

                                                                                    CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE

Copies to:

Attorney for Petitioner Claimant


NOTICE OF SEIZURE REPORT NO.: __________________

CASE NO.: _______________

DATE: ________________________ (To be filled in by Clerk of the Court)

TO: _______(Claimant’s Name)_____

ADDRESS: ____________________

_______________________________

RE: (Description of Seized Property)__________________________________________

This is to advise you that on ___Date___ the _______Seizing Agency_____seized the above-referenced property for a violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, §§ 932.701– 932.7062, Florida Statutes. YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED that you are entitled by law to request an adversarial preliminary hearing to determine whether there is probable cause to believe the property was used in violation of the Act.

PLEASE NOTE that the adversarial preliminary hearing is not mandatory and you need not request a hearing to later contest the action taken against the property described herein. Each claimant will be given the opportunity to appear in court before final disposition of this matter.

IF YOU DESIRE SUCH A HEARING, you must make a request in writing by certified mail, return receipt requested, to ________(Name of Seizing Agency)_______ at the address listed below, within fifteen (15) days of receiving this Notice. This request must be accompanied by a copy of this Notice. The seizing agency will notify you of the time, date, and place of that hearing.

I HEREBY CERTIFY that I have:

____ provided a copy of this Notice to the person named above, or

____ forwarded a copy of this Notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, to

_____________________________________ (person or entity to which Notice was sent) this ______ day of ________________, 20___. _____________________________________

Seizing Officer/Person Sending Notice

I HEREBY CERTIFY that I have: _____ received the foregoing Notice apprising me of my right to post-seizure adversarial hearing. _____________________________________ Claimant

(Seizing agency)

(Address)

(Person ID/Fla. Bar Number)

(Telephone Number)

(E-mail Address)

If you are a person with a disability who needs any accommodation in order to participate in this proceeding, you are entitled, at no cost to you, to the provision of certain assistance. Please contact the Human Rights Office, 400 S. Ft. Harrison Ave., Suite 300, Clearwater, FL 33756, (727) 464-4062 (V/TDD) at least 7 days before your scheduled court appearance, or immediately upon receiving this notification if the time before the scheduled appearance is less than 7 days; if you are hearing or voice impaired, call 711.


IN THE CIRCUIT COURT, SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT IN AND FOR PASCO AND PINELLAS COUNTIES, FLORIDA

IN RE:

FORFEITURE OF:

(Description of Property) __________________________________/

Case No.: ________________

COMPLAINT FOR FORFEITURE

COMES NOW Complainant, _________________________________, for the use and benefit of the ____________________________, by and through the undersigned attorney, and files this Complaint for Forfeiture under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act (the Act), and says:

  1. This is an action for forfeiture pursuant to sections 932.701–932.7062, Florida Statutes; jurisdiction in this Court pursuant to section 932.704, Florida Statutes.
  2. ____________________________________________ is a seizing agency as set forth in section 932.704, Florida Statutes.
  3. A description of the property that is the subject of this action is as follows: ________________________________________________________________ (Description of all property)
  4. On or about ________________ (date property was used in violation of the Act), said property was in violation of the Act by virtue of one or more of the following:
    • a) _____ The property is a contraband article as defined in section 932.701(2)(a), Florida Statutes.
    • b) _____ The property was used to transport, carry, convey, conceal, or possess a contraband article in violation of section 932.702(1) or (2), Florida Statutes.
    • c) _____ The property was used to facilitate the transportation, carriage, conveyance, concealment, receipt, possession, purchase, sale, barter, exchange, or giving away of any contraband article, or used as an instrumentality in the commission of or in aiding or abetting in the commission of a felony or violation of the Act, pursuant to sections 932.702(3) and (4), Florida Statutes.
    • d) _____ The property was acquired by the use of proceeds obtained in violation of the Act in violation of section 932.701 or 932.702(5), Florida Statutes.
    • e) _____ The property is subject to forfeiture pursuant to:_________________________________(This section is for other statutory violations which authorize forfeiture under the Act; e.g., felony littering, VIN-HIN violations, aircraft violations, fleeing in a vessel, etc.)
  5. On or about ________________ (date property was actually seized), the ____________________________________ (name of seizing law enforcement agency) discovered and seized the property described in paragraph 3 above at or near ___________________________________________________________ (address or location where property was seized).
  6. The Complainant has conducted a reasonably diligent search for all persons or entities who may have an interest in the property described in paragraph 3 above by virtue of possession, ownership, registration law, or perfected lien, and who are known to the Complainant as: (names of persons or entities) and all others who claim an interest in the following described property: (describe property)
  7. Complainant has complied with the Notice requirements of the Act.
  8. Pursuant to 932.703(2)(b), Florida Statutes, on ___(date)___, the seizing agency submitted an affidavit setting forth the facts and circumstances upon which the seizure was based and which support the forfeiture of the property and obtained an Order Finding Probable Cause for Seizure.

WHEREFORE, ______(Name of Petitioner)______________, having provided to the persons or entities listed in Paragraph 6 above, and any other persons or entities who claim an interest in the property described in Paragraph 3 above a copy of the Notice to Claimant Forfeiture of Personal Property, and after hearing upon the Complaint for Forfeiture, requests this Court to enter a Final Order of Forfeiture perfecting the right, interest, and title to said property for the use or benefit of the _______(name of law enforcement agency)___________________

____________________________________

(Signature of Attorney)

(Name of Attorney)

(Address)

(Telephone Number)

Person ID/Florida Bar Number

E-mail Address


IN THE CIRCUIT COURT, SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT IN AND FOR PASCO AND PINELLAS COUNTIES

RE: NOTICE TO CLAIMANTS OF SEIZURE AND FILING REQUIREMENTS UNDER SECTION 932.704(5)(c), FLORIDA STATUTES

The Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act sets forth the procedural requirements governing the forfeiture of contraband articles. See §§ 932.701–932.7062, Florida Statutes. Pursuant to section 943.704(5)(c), Florida Statutes, any claimant who desires to contest the forfeiture action shall file and serve upon the attorney representing the seizing agency any responsive pleadings and affirmative defenses.

It is therefore

ORDERED:

THAT YOU HAVE BEEN SERVED WITH A FORMAL COMPLAINT AND AS A PERSON WHO CLAIMS AN INTEREST IN THE SEIZED PROPERTY, YOU HAVE TWENTY (20) DAYS FROM SERVICE OF A COPY OF THE COMPLAINT FOR FORFEITURE TO FILE IN THIS COURT ANY RESPONSIVE PLEADING, ANSWER, AND/OR AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES TO THE COMPLAINT FOR FORFEITURE.

YOU ARE FURTHER COMMANDED TO SERVE A COPY OF SUCH ANSWER OR RESPONSIVE PLEADING WITHIN SAID TIME PERIOD UPON THE ATTORNEY WHO FILED THE COMPLAINT FOR FORFEITURE. FAILURE TO FILE AND SERVE SUCH ANSWER OR PLEADING WITHIN SAID TIME PERIOD SHALL RESULT IN THE ENTRY OF A DEFAULT PURSUANT TO FLORIDA RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 1.500(a), AND A FINAL ORDER OF FORFEITURE.


Attorney Adversarial Preliminary Hearing for Asset Forfeiture in Pasco County

If you received a notice that law enforcement officers in Pasco County are seizing your property under Florida law or federal law for asset forfeiture, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm.

Our attorneys represent clients in Asset Forfeiture and Adversarial Preliminary Hearings in Hillsborough County in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit. We also represent clients throughout the Sixth Judicial Circuit for Pinellas County and Pasco County in an adversarial preliminary hearing after assets are seized for forfeiture.

Call 813-250-0500 to discuss your case today. 


This article was last updated on Friday, September 9, 2016.