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Topical look at asset forfeiture, part 2: some facts, considerations

We recently referenced a long-time federal government program that allowed for the summary seizure of individuals' personal property in the absence of any guilt showing.

In other words, assets could be taken without an indictment ever being issued or criminal charges ever being filed. We noted in our March 3 blog post that the program -- an initiative called Equitable Sharing that was inaugurated decades ago as a cornerstone of the national War on Drugs -- was recently terminated by Attorney General Eric Holder.

We failed to mention in that earlier post two caveats worth noting, which we pass along to readers here, namely these:

  • Federal authorities can continue to "adopt," sell and distribute proceeds to enforcement agencies in limited circumstances involving things like explosives, illegal firearms and child pornography
  • States can continue to summarily seize assets under their own laws

A recent media breakdown on government seizures and spending related to asset forfeiture provides a fascinating glimpse into the program and how it has enriched state coffers across the country.

Comparatively, Florida was a big recipient of funds seized from private parties under the Equitable Sharing program.

Here is a stark juxtaposition that well illustrates that: While North Dakota law enforcement agencies seized and spent slightly more than $371,000 in assets from 2008 to early this year, Florida authorities spent more than $204 million.

And what policing agencies have spent the money on across the country is revealing, with wish lists spanning a wide purchasing domain. Spending categories range widely from computer and police salaries to weapon purchases, electronic surveillance and a generically marked "other" category.

Again, the federal asset forfeiture program is now defunct, with states retaining seizure powers under laws that exist within their jurisdictions.

Any Florida resident with questions or concerns regarding asset forfeiture can contact a proven Miami-based criminal law attorney for answers and strong representation in any legal matter.

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