Forfeiture Actions by the Tampa Police Department
What can you do after officers with the Tampa Police Department seize your property and give you notice that they intend to keep the property through a forfeiture action? Although you can represent yourself, the law is extremely complicated. An attorney can help you fight for the quick return of your property.
The most important thing to know is don’t neglect to demand an Adversary Preliminary Hearing immediately after the seizure. If you don’t make that demand within 15 days, then you forever lose the right to that preliminary hearing. We can demand the hearing for you the same day that you retain us which often helps us negotiate the return of your property. If the property is not returned immediately, we can fight for the return of the property at the adversary preliminary hearing.
If you lose the preliminary hearing or fail to even request it, then TPD can attempt to drag the case out for months or years. An attorney can help you speed up the process and protect your rights during every stage of the process.
We often discuss the case with the TPD Forfeiture Unit to show reasons why the property should be returned to an innocent owner.
Don’t make a statement. The seizing officer or detective are trained to obtain post-Miranda statements implicating the property. In those cases in which the violator is not the owner, the detective is trained to get statements from the owner to show that they were knowledgeable about the use of the property by the violator.
For example, when TPD seizes U.S. currency, the officers are trained to ask the violator if they are employed and if so, where they are employed. The officers will attempt to ascertain the person’s level of personal income in order to tie the violator to his/her story regarding the currency at the scene. When currency is seized, the suspect’s statements are usually the only way for TPD to show that the currency was gained from or intended to be used illegally in any felony offense. Don’t make a statement until after you have spoken to an attorney about the case.
Attorney for Forfeiture Actions by TPD
If an office with the Tampa Police Department (TDP) seized your property and provided you with a Notice of Seizure Form (TPD 62), then contact an experienced asset forfeiture attorney in Tampa, FL, as quickly as possible. In some cases, the notice of seizure form will be sent to you via certified mail from the Evidence Control Section.
If the notice of seizure form was not provided to you within the prescribed time period, then Tampa Police Department can lose the case on that basis. We can represent any person with a claim to the property seized.
Call (813) 250-0500.
TPD’s Standard Operating Procedures for Asset Forfeitures
One of the best ways to understand asset forfeiture actions by the Tampa Police Department is to learn more about their standard operating procedures, SOP 337 dated September of 2014 which supersedes SOP 337 dated in March of 2007.
Keep in mind that civil forfeiture can occur at any time during the investigative process up until the final disposition of the case.
The standard operating procedures were created to establish clear and concise procedures for the lawful seizure and forfeiture of currency, cash monies, vessels, motor vehicles, aircraft, real property, and other forfeitable items in compliance with F.S. §932.701 – §706, which is known as the “Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act”.
Definition of Contraband Articles under the Forfeiture Act
Florida Statute §932.701 defines “Contraband Article” as follows:
- Any controlled substance as defined in Chapter 893 or any substance, device, paraphernalia, or currency or other means of exchange that was used, attempted to be used or was intended to be used in violation of any provision of Chapter 893; if the totality of the facts establish probable cause that a nexus exists between the article seized and the narcotics activity, whether or not the use can be traced to a specific narcotics transaction.
- Any gambling paraphernalia, lottery tickets, money, and currency used or intended to be used in violation of the gambling laws of the state (including misdemeanor offenses);
- Any equipment, liquid or solid, which is being used or intended to be used in violation of the beverage or tobacco laws of the state (including misdemeanor offenses);
- Any motor fuel upon which the motor fuel tax has not been paid as required by law (including misdemeanor offenses);
- Any personal property, including, but not limited to, any vessel, aircraft, item, object, tool, substance, device, weapon, machine, vehicle of any kind, money, securities, or currency, which has been or is actually employed as an instrumentality in the commission of, or in aiding or abetting in the commission of, any felony whether or not comprising an element of the felony, or which is acquired by proceeds obtained as a result of a violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.
- Any real property, including any right, title, leasehold, or other interest in the whole of any lot or tract of land, which was used, is being used, or was attempted to be used as an instrumentality in the commission of, or in aiding or abetting any felony, or which is acquired by proceeds obtained as a result of a violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.
- Motor vehicle offered for sale in violation of s. 320.28.
- Any motor vehicle used during the course of committing an offense in violation of s. 322.34(9)(a).
- Any photograph, film, or other recorded image, including an image recorded on video tape, a compact disk, digital tape, or fixed disk, that is recorded in violation of s. 810.145 and is possessed for the purpose of amusement, entertainment, sexual arousal, gratification, or profit, or for the purpose of degrading or abusing another person.
- Motor vehicle used in drag racing in violation of s. 316.191, provided the person charged is the owner of the vehicle and has prior conviction for racing within 5 years of the date of the offense.
Prohibited Acts that Subject Property to Forfeiture
The illegal acts that subject property to forfeiture under Florida Statute §932.702 include the following:
- To transport, carry, or convey any contraband article in, upon, or by means of any vessel, motor vehicle, or aircraft.
- To conceal or possess any contraband article in or upon any vessel, motor vehicle, aircraft, or real property.
- To use any vessel, motor vehicle, aircraft, other personal property or real property to facilitate the transportation, carriage, conveyance, concealment, receipt, possession, purchase, sale, barter, exchange, or giving away of any contraband article.
- To conceal or possess or use any contraband article as an instrumentality in the commission of or in aiding or abetting in the commission of any felony or violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.
- To acquire real or personal property by the use of proceeds obtained in violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.
Under F.S. §932.703 any 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 provisions of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.
Examples of Illegal Acts that Subject Property to Forfeiture
The most common examples of unlawful acts that might subject property to civil forfeiture include:
- A vehicle is utilized to transport narcotics or to go to and from the scene of a narcotics transaction (the vehicle is the facilitating contraband article);
- A vehicle that was purchased with proceeds of illegal activities;
- Any vehicle used in the commission of an armed robbery, burglary, sexual assault or other felony;
- A vessel, motor vehicle, or aircraft used to transport, conceal, or possess contraband articles such as felony stolen property, gambling paraphernalia, untaxed liquor, cigarettes, or motor fuel or is used as a weapon in a felony assault or battery.
- Tools and equipment used to dismantle stolen motor vehicles, boats, or aircraft.
- Any vessel, motor vehicle, or aircraft used to convey contraband, to transport the seller or purchaser of contraband to the site of the transaction, or to transport property (cash, stocks, gold/silver, etc.) which has been, is being, or is intended to be exchanged for any controlled substance.
- A warehouse, business, or residence used to store or distribute narcotics or stolen merchandise.
- A vehicle is being driven by a confirmed felony habitual traffic offender.
- An operator, whose license is currently suspended or revoked as the result of a previous conviction for DUI, is arrested for driving under the influence.
- A motor vehicle is used for racing by a person within 5 years of the date of prior conviction for racing under s. 316.191; if the person is racing is the owner of the vehicle.
Forfeiture Actions Involving U.S. Currency
U.S. currency is frequently used in felony transactions and is often proceeds of a felony offense. Examples of money being used in a way prohibited under the forfeiture action that are listed in the SOP include the following:
- A confidential informant makes several controlled purchases of marijuana from a suspect at his residence. A search warrant is obtained for the residence. A search of the residence reveals several pounds of marijuana, various items of drug paraphernalia and $10,000.00 cash. The suspect cannot provide a legitimate explanation or source for the $10,000.00. The cash is subject to forfeiture.
- Generally, if probable cause exists to believe that currency will be used in a narcotics transaction or is proceeds of a narcotics transaction, the currency is subject to forfeiture.
Other property commonly used in the commission of a felony is subject to seizure with proper documentation establishing a connection between the use of the property and the crime. This other types of property seized for forfeiture can include any of the following:
- Jewelry – quite often received in exchange for narcotics, or purchased with the proceeds from illicit crimes;
- Firearms – used in narcotics transactions, and other felonies, as a means of protection;
- Cellular or mobile telephone or other communication device(s) or monitor(s) used to aid, alert or assist in the purchase or sale of controlled substances, etc.; and
- Grow equipment, scales, or safes;
TPD Procedures in Asset Forfeiture Actions
The Standard Operating Procedures used by the Tampa Police Department require the seizing officer or detective to take certain steps in each case. First, the seizing officer or detective with TPD must determine whether property is contraband as defined or in the case of a vessel, motor vehicle, aircraft, or real property, whether it was used for a prohibited act as defined.
Second, the seizing officer or detective must secure a seizure warrant prior to the seizure when the seizure of property is the result of past activity and no probable cause presently exists to search.
Third, the seizing officer or detective must provide a Notice of Seizure Form (TPD 62) to all possible claimants after filling out the form and obtaining the claimant’s signature. The claimant(s) will keep the yellow copy, the white copy will be returned to the Forfeiture Unit no later than the following day. The Tampa Police Department has a box in the Evidence Control Section for this purpose.
Fourth, pink copy of the notice of seizure form will be turned in with the original report to Records. The notice form will be provided to the claimant(s) at the time of seizure (if possible). If the yellow copy is not given to all parties, you are to have it sent via certified mail through the Evidence Control Section prior to the end of shift. In any case, it must be provided to the claimant(s) within five days. If TPD fails to provide notice within the prescribed time period it might result in loss of the forfeiture case.
Fifth, the seizing officer or detective must determine, if possible, whether the violator owns the property and, if not, identify the registered owner or title holder by name, address and telephone numbers and have a notice signed by them or sent certified mail to them. Only property subject to actual forfeiture (not drugs, recovered buy money, recovered stolen property, etc.) should be listed on the notice form.
Sixth, the seizing officer or detective must document any information obtained regarding any lien holder, person, or lending institution that has any financial interest in the property.
Seventh, when filling out the impound report (TPD 203), the seizing officer or detective must place a hold for the Forfeiture Unit by completing the impound report including TPD number, name of person(s) arrested and offense(s). If the person doing the impound is not the case agent, put the name of the case agent at the bottom of the detail section of the impound report. The impound/seizure officer’s supervisor will, after approval of the officer’s report, cause a complete copy of the Incident Report (including any impound report) to be delivered to the Forfeiture Unit within seven calendar days following the seizure.
The TPD Forfeiture Unit
According to the standard operating procedures, the forfeiture unit of the Tampa Police Department is required to do the following:
- Be responsible for follow-up actions and completion of forfeiture procedures.
- Prepare the necessary documents for forfeiture including negotiated settlements or releases.
- Notify the Assistant Chief of Investigations and Support of forfeited property that can be utilized by the department for assignment of the property.
- Ensure that a standardized course of training for basic recruits and continuing education is implemented on an annual basis in accordance with F.S. §932.706. Such standardized course may be implemented as part of department in-service training.
- The Special Support Division commander shall, after notice from the Forfeiture Unit that property has been forfeited to and accepted by the department, and at the direction of the chief of police, cause the property to be released from the Evidence Control Section and lawfully disposed of or placed into use with the proper inventory controls.
- The collection, disbursement, and audit of funds resulting from seizure and forfeiture of contraband property shall be in accordance with SOP 626.
Audit of the TPD Forfeiture Fund – The best way to understand asset forfeiture cases in the Tampa Police Department is to follow the money and how they keep track of the way it is being distributed. For fiscal year 2015, the City of Tampa had brought in approximately $1.3 million and spent approximately $4.2 million. Find the internal audit files of the Legal and Forfeiture Unit Law Enforcement Trust Fund which was published on February 12, 2016. Property subjected to forfeiture by law enforcement officers with the Tampa Police Department is recorded in the City of Tampa’s State fund. The use of those funds are subject to the restrictions and guidance of the Forfeiture Act. Read more about TPD’s problems when complying with City Ordinance Chapter 2, Section 2-46 that requires departments “to create and maintain all records with adequate and proper documentation of the organization, together with the functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions, of the department.”
This article was last updated on Friday, May 25, 2018.