FLORIDA CONTRABAND PROCEDURES ACT or How the State can seize your assets in civil forfeiture proceedings.

We have a new procedure in the Second Judicial Circuit!

Since my last post, I just want to say how happy I am that in the Second Judicial Circuit we now have an update procedure announced in Administrative Order 2017-11.

Unfortunately, my success with petitioning our local circuit may dry up my future business prospects, but that is the price you pay when you care about justice. I was very happy to say that all parties involved realized that there was a problem and that our Circuit needed a uniform approach and the wisdom of our Judiciary made it so that the forfeiture procedures are in accord with the principles of justice.

Essentially, it is going to be a lot harder for law enforcement to seize and forfeit one's assets without hurdling a higher standard of proof.

In the unlikely event that you or your friends and family have an asset in a forfeiture proceeding, please contact our firm immediately. There are still very strict time-limits involved in contesting the forfeiture!

https://cvweb.clerk.leon.fl.us/public/clerk_services/official_records/download_document.asp?book=5132&page=1688

Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, Part 2

Date: October 26, 2017

Posted By: Kris Dunn

The Law Office of Dunn & Harvell is very proud to say that we have been the driving force in the Second Judicial Circuit to get a procedure in place to help out victims of criminal asset forfeitures, also known as, as the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.

Together with local law enforcement agencies, Mr. Dunn petitioned our Circuit to adopt a procedure that was fair and complied with the new statutory language that was adopted in 2016, by the legislature.

It’s not many times that a criminal defense firm will agree with the Tallahassee Police Department and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, but there was strong agreement that the safeguards that the legislature intended were codified in an administrative order.

Dunn & Harvell are happy to say that once this administrative order is adopted, on how the forfeiture process works; there will be uniformity and protections in all counties of the Second Judicial Circuit.

If you ever have any questions about any type of forfeiture resulting from a criminal act or think that someone else’s activity is putting your property at risk, please call us immediately.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say!

Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, Part 1

Date: October 26, 2017

Posted By: Kris Dunn

If you are a victim of civil asset forfeiture, contact us!

What are your rights when the “Law” takes your stuff?

Before we go into the question, let’s start off with a little background. Florida and every other state in the nation has a law on the books to civilly seize someone’s assets if they can link that asset to the commission of a crime. The image in a lot of people’s heads is that of a Lear jet carrying bundles of cocaine and landing in a rural airport with no passengers. That makes sense because it is very apparent that the “trafficking of cocaine” would only be possible if it were being flown from Colombia to the USA on that Lear jet and the amount of cocaine on the jet would be indicative of the whole crew knowing and conspiring to import cocaine. Obviously, the drugs are seized as part of the criminal case and the local law enforcement agency MAY seize the Lear jet as a “civil forfeiture.”
For years the civil forfeiture proceeding was a tough legal hearing to beat and often the only time you were able to win it, was by showing that there was an innocent owner. The innocent owner exclusion from forfeiture meant that they had no clue, idea, or premonition that the pilots (to continue our example) flew down to Colombia to buy drugs and were going to import them. This is the one sure-fire way to win the hearing.
So, now that we understand the general dynamics of the concept, we can further discuss how the law evolved. If you scroll the news feeds you might have even seen this from Justice Clarence Thomas, where he is quoted:
This system — where police can seize property with limited judicial oversight and retain it for their own use — has led to egregious and well-chronicled abuses. According to one nationally publicized report, for example, police in the town of Tenaha, Texas, regularly seized the property of out-of-town drivers passing through and collaborated with the district attorney to coerce them into signing waivers of their property rights. In one case, local officials threatened to file unsubstantiated felony charges against a Latino driver and his girlfriend and to place their children in foster care unless they signed a waiver. In another, they seized a black plant worker’s car and all his property (including cash he planned to use for dental work), jailed him for a night, forced him to sign away his property, and then released him on the side of the road without a phone or money. He was forced to walk to a Wal-Mart, where he borrowed a stranger’s phone to call his mother, who had to rent a car to pick him up. These forfeiture operations frequently target the poor and other groups least able to defend their interests in forfeiture proceedings. Perversely, these same groups are often the most burdened by forfeiture. They are more likely to use cash than alternative forms of payment, like credit cards, which may be less susceptible to forfeiture. And they are more likely to suffer in their daily lives while they litigate for the return of a critical item of property, such as a car or a home.

Read more at: https://www.nationalreview.com/article/448942/civil-asset-forfeiture-police-abuse-clarence-thomas

Fortunately, Florida was never one of the top abusers of forfeiture, but when a Supreme Court Justice mentions that the system needs to be redesigned, that’s exactly what happened in the legislative session of 2016.

There are now more protections for your seized items.
The law changed substantially in 2016 to give the asset owner great protections. Most importantly, the law now requires the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your belongings were used in the commission of a crime.

If this is happening to you, please contact our firm. We have the legal knowledge and experience to fight for your property!

Can The Police Stop Me From Filming Them?

Date Posted: August 12, 2017

Posted By: Kris Dunn

Q: Can the police stop me from filming them? I saw an article on Facebook that said this is now illegal.

A: The recent case of Akins v. Knight has received quite a bit of publicity. In Akins, the plaintiff filed a civil lawsuit against five Missouri police officers claiming that his civil rights had been violated in several different ways, including denying him the right to videotape the police during an arrest. Akins disagreed with the ruling of the trial judge dismissing his case and finding for the police. Akins appealed the decision to the U.S. Appeals Court for the Eighth Circuit, which includes Missouri and other midwestern states, but does not include Florida. Therefore, the court’s decision does not apply to Florida.

The appellate court did not address the legality of the public filming the police as they execute their duties. Instead, the appeals court decided not to hear the case. Some legal commentators have interpreted the decision not to hear the case to mean that the Eighth Circuit agrees with the trial judge that the public cannot film the police. However, the decision does not specifically say that.

In any case, it is well settled in Florida that citizens may film the actions of the police so long as those actions take place in public and the persons being recorded are aware of the recording. While the police may make reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions in the way they are photographed, they cannot completely prohibit you from filming their conduct. Put simply, you can film an arrest, but you cannot allow your filming to disrupt the arrest. The mere act of filming is not disruptive, but disobeying an order to move back and film the arrest from elsewhere could be disruptive and may place you at risk of your own arrest.

Your First Amendment rights include the right to gather information about what public officials do on public property and record matters of public interest, including the actions of police when arresting a subject. However, state wire tapping laws may apply to certain types of recording of the police, so we encourage you to contact this law firm before you undertake any type of recording or surveillance of the police.

Please contact the office of Dunn & Miller, P.A. with any further questions you may have regarding your rights to video tape an officer.

Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act (part 2)

Dunn & Miller, P.A. are very proud to say that we have been the driving force in the Second Judicial Circuit to get a procedure in place to help out victims of criminal asset forfeitures, also known as, as the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.

Together with local law enforcement agencies, Mr. Dunn petitioned our Circuit to adopt a procedure that was fair and complied with the new statutory language that was adopted in 2016, by the legislature.

It's not many times that a criminal defense firm will agree with the Tallahassee Police Department and the Leon County Sheriff's Office, but there was strong agreement that the safeguards that the legislature intended were codified in an administrative order.

Dunn & Miller, P.A. are happy to say that once this administrative order is adopted, on how the forfeiture process works; there will be uniformity and protections in all counties of the Second Judicial Circuit.

If you ever have any questions about any type of forfeiture resulting from a criminal act or think that someone else's activity is putting your property at risk, please call us immediately.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say!

THE FLORIDA CONTRABAND FORFEITURE ACT

If you are a victim of civil asset forfeiture, contact us!

What are your rights when the "Law" takes your stuff?

Before we go into the question, let's start off with a little background. Florida and every other state in the nation has a law on the books to civilly seize someone's assets if they can link that asset to the commission of a crime. The image in a lot of people's heads is that of a Lear jet carrying bundles of cocaine and landing in a rural airport with no passengers. That makes sense because it is very apparent that the "trafficking of cocaine" would only be possible if it were being flown from Colombia to the USA on that Lear jet and the amount of cocaine on the jet would be indicative of the whole crew knowing and conspiring to import cocaine. Obviously, the drugs are seized as part of the criminal case and the local law enforcement agency MAY seize the Lear jet as a "civil forfeiture."
For years the civil forfeiture proceeding was a tough legal hearing to beat and often the only time you were able to win it, was by showing that there was an innocent owner. The innocent owner exclusion from forfeiture meant that they had no clue, idea, or premonition that the pilots (to continue our example) flew down to Colombia to buy drugs and were going to import them. This is the one sure-fire way to win the hearing.
So, now that we understand the general dynamics of the concept, we can further discuss how the law evolved. If you scroll the news feeds you might have even seen this from Justice Clarence Thomas, where he is quoted:
This system — where police can seize property with limited judicial oversight and retain it for their own use — has led to egregious and well-chronicled abuses. According to one nationally publicized report, for example, police in the town of Tenaha, Texas, regularly seized the property of out-of-town drivers passing through and collaborated with the district attorney to coerce them into signing waivers of their property rights. In one case, local officials threatened to file unsubstantiated felony charges against a Latino driver and his girlfriend and to place their children in foster care unless they signed a waiver. In another, they seized a black plant worker’s car and all his property (including cash he planned to use for dental work), jailed him for a night, forced him to sign away his property, and then released him on the side of the road without a phone or money. He was forced to walk to a Wal-Mart, where he borrowed a stranger’s phone to call his mother, who had to rent a car to pick him up. These forfeiture operations frequently target the poor and other groups least able to defend their interests in forfeiture proceedings. Perversely, these same groups are often the most burdened by forfeiture. They are more likely to use cash than alternative forms of payment, like credit cards, which may be less susceptible to forfeiture. And they are more likely to suffer in their daily lives while they litigate for the return of a critical item of property, such as a car or a home.

Read more at: https://www.nationalreview.com/article/448942/civil-asset-forfeiture-police-abuse-clarence-thomas

Fortunately, Florida was never one of the top abusers of forfeiture, but when a Supreme Court Justice mentions that the system needs to be redesigned, that's exactly what happened in the legislative session of 2016.

There are now more protections for your seized items.
The law changed substantially in 2016 to give the asset owner great protections. Most importantly, the law now requires the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your belongings were used in the commission of a crime.

If this is happening to you, please contact our firm. We have the legal knowledge and experience to fight for your property!

Premises Liability

For our latest blog post, we thought we would share a question from a recent visitor to our website.

Q: I own a rental property in Tallahassee and serve on the condominium’s Board of Directors.  We have an unlit parking lot.  The Board is concerned that the Directors may be individually liable if there is a crime in the parking lot.  The community has many FSU students as renters and I admit I am worried about one of the young women being attacked. Can I be sued if there is an attack in our unlit parking lot.

A: Florida law is mixed on this issue and whether there will be liability by the Association or a member of the Board of Directors individually will depend on the particular facts of each case. In the past, Florida law has held that where the association has undertaken security measures or advertised security measures, and those security measures are inadequate, the association can be held liable if those security measures fail to prevent a crime. As an example, if a condominium advertises to prospective buyers that the property has surveillance cameras and a twenty-four hour armed guard, the association may be liable if a resident is attacked and the cameras did not work and the armed guard only worked 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, you state that your parking lot is unlit, so for the purposes of this answer, I will assume that your community has not undertaken any special security measures.

Recently, Florida courts have extended liability under certain situations that may make associations liable for failure to correct inadequate security when they the association has knowledge that a dangerous condition exists on the property.  Under certain circumstances, this could include inadequate lighting in your parking lot, now that you have knowledge of the problem.  For recovery,  a crime victim may be able to obtain money damages from the defendant association if he or she can provide sufficient evidence that there was (1) a dangerous condition on the property, including inadequate lighting in a parking lot and (2) the defendant knew — or reasonably should have known about it, but (3) he or she did not take reasonable steps to make the place safe or at least minimize the danger and (4) as a result, the plaintiff was hurt.  Whether this liability extends to individual Board members in their personal capacity is an open question.  You should consult with your association’s insurance carrier to verify that you have insurance coverage for such an event and whether the policy covers individual Board members.  Thank you for your question.