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Forfeiture Hearings in Hillsborough County, FL

If a law enforcement officer in Hillsborough County took your property, then you should become familiar with Florida’s Civil Asset Forfeiture laws. You must act quickly to protect your rights because one wrong move might result in you not getting the property back.

The most important thing to remember is that you only have 15 days to demand an adverse preliminary hearing. If you want the property back, then you should ALWAYS file a demand for a adverse preliminary hearing within the 15 day deadline (and as soon after you receive notice as possible). Under federal law, you only have 10 (ten) days to demand the hearing, so act quickly.

The procedures for forfeiture hearings in Hillsborough County are published in several administrative orders. Reading these orders is important to understand the procedures that will apply in your case. Forfeiture hearings are governed, in part, by Administrative Order S-2017-067 signed on December 14, 2017, which sets out the rules in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit for the initial probable cause determination. This order replaced parts of Administrative Order No. S-03-11-95-76 signed on July 21, 1995 (which superseded Administrative Order S-03-04-11-92-097 in its entirety).

Attorney for Civil Asset Fofeiture in Hillsborough County, FL

If your property was seized by a law enforcement agency in Hillsborough County, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to fight for the return of your property. We charge a low fee to file a demand for an adverse preliminary hearing and to negotiate the return of your property. We fight these cases throughout Hillsborough County, Hernando County, Pasco County, Pinellas County and Polk County, FL.

Our attorneys are familiar with the rules in state and federal criminal and civil asset forfeiture cases. We know how to fight the seizure of a vehicle or other property under the contraband forfeiture act. Many anti-drug laws in federal law and state law include asset forfeiture provisions. Under both state and federal law, demanding the adversarial preliminary hearing is the most improtant way to preserve your rights.

Call (813) 250-0500 today


Uniform Procedures for Forfeiture of Personal Property

Florida law established certain procedural requirements under the Contraband Forfeiture Act, Sections 932.701 through Section 932.707, Florida Statutes (1993). Chapter 95-265, Section 4, Laws of Florida, provides that all civil forfeiture cases shall be heard by a circuit court judge in the civil division.

The courts have determined that it is necessary to implement certain procedures in a uniform manner within the courts of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in and for Tampa and Plant City in Hillsborough County, FL.


Right to Adversarial Preliminary Hearing in Hillsborough County

All law enforcement seizing agencies within Hillsborough County shall notify persons entitled to notice of the seizure and to an adversarial preliminary hearing by written notice in substantially the same format as Attachment “A” (listed below).

Law enforcement agencies in Hillsborough County that often seize personal property include the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the Tampa Police Department, the Temple Terrace Police Department, the Plant City Police Department and the Florida Highway Patrol.

The notice of the seizure and to an adverse preliminary hearing SHALL be served on the persons entitled to notice at the time of the seizure or by certified mail, return receipt requested, within 5 working days after seizure of the property.

The law enforcement agency that seized the personal property SHALL serve this notice for all personal property seized pursuant to the provisions of the Contraband Forfeiture Act regardless of means of seizure, including but not limited to, seizure effected under warrant.


Notice of Adversarial Preliminary Hearing in Hillsborough County, FL

If a person entitled to notice desires an adversarial preliminary hearing, a timely request shall be made in writing by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the seizing agency.

The administrative order provides:

If a person entitled to notice timely submits to the seizing agency a request for an adversarial preliminary hearing, the seizing agency shall file the notice of seizure (Attachment “A”) with the Clerk of the Circuit Court (“Clerk”) [in Hillsborough County, FL] so that a case number and division may be assigned.

The administrative order requires that the seizing agency shall then

  1. contact the court to set a hearing date and time,
  2. serve a copy of the notice of hearing on the claimant(s) and provide a copy of the notice to the court, and
  3. file the original notice of hearing with the clerk.

No adversarial preliminary hearing shall be scheduled after the court's entry of any order finding probable cause.


Initial Probable Cause Determination

In the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County, the initial probable cause determination is set out in Administrative Order S-2017-067 signed on December 14, 2017.

As to the assignment of the probable cause application, when a seizure of property is made under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, the seizing law enforcement agency must timely apply ex parte to the presiding judge of County Criminal Division "C" for an initial order determining whether probable cause exists for the seizure of the property.

Orders will be filed in the Clerk's Administrative File according to the process explained in the latest administrative order.

Law enforcement agency attorneys will submit their application via e-mail to the judicial assistant of County Criminal Division "C" who will forward the application to the clerk of court for assignment of a Clerk's Administrative File number.

Upon the judge determining whether probable cause exists, the judicial assistant will notify the law enforcement agency attorney, request an appropriate order be submitted, and provide the Clerk's Administrative File number that has been assigned to the application.

The law enforcement agency attorney will then submit a proposed order through the Judicial Automated Workload System (JAWS) using the Clerk's Administrative File number. The proposed order will then be automatically submitted to the judge's work queue on JAWS.

If the law enforcement agency wishes the court to seal any portion of the application or sworn affidavit, it must e-mail to the judicial assistant of County Criminal Division "C" a separate Motion to Determine Confidentiality of Court Records simultaneously with the application. In accordance with the procedure outlined in Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.420(e), the application and sworn affidavit "must be treated as confidential by the clerk pending the court's ruling on the motion.

Upon the judge making a decision on the Motion to Determine Confidentiality of Court Records, the judicial assistant will notify the law enforcement agency attorney, request an appropriate order be submitted, and provide the Clerk's Administrative File number that has been assigned to the application and motion. The law enforcement agency attorney will then submit a proposed order through the JAWS using the Clerk's Administrative File number.

If the seizing law enforcement agency files a complaint to proceed against the contraband article, the complaint will be filed in the Circuit Civil Division. All adversarial preliminary hearings under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act will be scheduled in an assigned division of the Circuit Civil Division as explained in Administrative Order S-2016-061.


Complaint for Forfeiture in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL

The administrative order provides:

Within 45 days of the seizure of the property, counsel for the seizing agency shall file a complaint styled “In Re: Forfeiture of ___” (followed by a description of the property) and accompanied by a verified supporting affidavit. However, if good cause is shown, the court may extend the time for filing a complaint to 60 days.

Upon the filing of a complaint, if no adversarial preliminary hearing has been held or scheduled, the clerk shall, within 5 working days, forward the file to the court. The seizing agency shall notify the court when the time to respond to the Notice of Seizure has elapsed so that the court may determine probable cause.

The court shall enter an order finding probable cause or no probable cause and forward a copy to counsel for the seizing law enforcement agency and to the claimant(s).


Assignment of Cases and Effective Date

The administrative order for forfeiture hearing provides:

All civil forfeiture cases still pending in Trial Division 2 of the Criminal Justice and Trial Divisions on the effective date of this administrative order shall be transferred to one of the General Civil Divisions of the Circuit Court by the blind rotation system, but the cases shall be distributed equally among the 10 General Civil Divisions.

All civil forfeiture cases filed on or after the effective date of this administrative order shall be assigned to one of the General Civil Divisions of the Circuit Court by the blind rotation system.


ATTACHMENT A

IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE THIRTEENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
FOR HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FLORIDA
CIVIL DIVISION
 

IN RE: THE FORFEITURE OF:
____________________                                                                                                                 CASE NUMBER:__________________
                                                                                                                                                     DIVISION:
NOTICE OF SEIZURE OF PERSONAL PROPERTY
_________________________
(Agency Report Number)

DATE:

TO:
 
This is to advise you that on [date] the [law enforcement agency] seized [description of property] for violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, Florida Statute, 932.701-707 (1995).

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT to request an adversarial preliminary hearing to have a court determine whether probable cause exists to believe the property seized has been or is being used in violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.

The request must be made within fifteen (15) days after receiving this notice.

In order to request such a hearing, you must submit the request in writing by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the seizing agency below. The request must include an address at which the seizing agency may serve you with further papers in this proceeding. The seizing agency will set a hearing with the court and will notify you of the time, date, and place of that hearing.

PLEASE NOTE THAT the post-seizure adversarial hearing is not mandatory and you need not request a hearing to later contest the action taken against the property described herein.
 
Signature of Officer or Attorney
For Seizing Agency

____________________, Esquire
____________________
____________________
(Name and address of attorney for seizing agency)

(Check one of the following)
___ Certificate of Mailing by Certified Mail
___ Hand Delivered, Accepted by ____________________


Finding an Attorney for an Seized Property in Hillsborough County

If your property was seized by a law enforcement agency in Tampa, Hillsborough County, or the surrounding areas throughout Tampa Bay, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. We work hard to get our client's property back to them through a adverse preliminary hearing, which is often the best way to fight for the return of the property.

Our criminal defense attorneys also fight asset forfeiture cases even when the person is never arrested or charged with a crime. We fight asset forfeitures, both civil and criminal, in Hillsborough County and the surrounding counties of Hernando County, Pasco County, Pinellas County and Polk County, FL.

From the adverse preliminary hearing through trial, we can help you fight to protect your rights.

Call (813) 250-0500.


This article was last updated by Jason D. Sammis on Friday, April 16, 2018.