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Hey, why are the police taking my money and property?

If you are suspected of committing a crime, you should know that in accordance with the law, you are innocent until proven guilty. However, that doesn't mean you might not face some consequences of being under suspicion and this can come as quite a shock to people who are in this situation.

For example, did you know that law enforcement officers can seize your property if they believe it is connected to illegal activity? This is known as asset forfeiture and in Florida it is protected by the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act. What may be most surprising is that you don't even need to be arrested or convicted of a crime to have property seized; police just need to believe the property is the profit from or was used to facilitate a crime. 

For example, if you are pulled over by police and have a significant amount of cash on you, an officer may find reason to believe that the cash was made through drug sales and he or she could seize the money. Further, your car could be forfeited as well if probable cause exists that it was used to traffic the drugs.

Originally intended to cripple large-scale crime rings, the asset forfeiture laws have now come under great scrutiny as examples of abuse have reached a troubling level. There have been reports of district attorneys using seized assets to support lavish lifestyles and police forces getting considerable bumps in their budget thanks to civil asset forfeiture. This has led to an environment where there is arguably strong motivation to take things now and ask questions later.

In Florida, there have been proposals made to reform the asset forfeiture process. Suggestions have included clarifying and restricting how and if seized assets can be utilized by law enforcement agencies as well as changing federal laws that permit sharing of seized assets between parties. Unfortunately, no such changes have been made yet.

This is not to say that you don't have options to get your assets back. You can go to court or negotiate with the government to seek the return of your money and properties, though this can be quite challenging. Having an attorney by your side can be crucial while to fight for the return of your assets and work to clear your name.

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