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Senator Stargel, District 22 — Press Release


February 11, 2016

CONTACT: Chris Spencer, 850-487-5022

Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Advances In Florida Senate

Bill will eliminate the practice of civil forfeiture in Florida

Tallahassee, FL —

Today Senate Bill 1044 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), relating to forfeiture and contraband, passed the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal Justice. The bill follows a study released by the Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability after a request was submitted by Senators Brandes, Negron, Bean, and Clemens to President Gardiner for further study on the issue. This legislation proposes to adopt the study’s recommendations.

“Property rights are pivotal to the foundation of liberty, and civil forfeiture has been eroding that foundation for decades,” stated Senator Brandes. “Today we have strong bipartisan support behind the simple notion that the government should have to arrest you before they can take your property, and if they want to keep your property because they believe it is contraband then the government must seek the highest standard our justice system affords – proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, released the following statement in support of the reform measure by Senator Brandes: “Senate Bill 1044, written by Senators Jeff Brandes, Joe Negron, and Jeff Clemens allows for asset forfeiture but under the necessary conditions required to protect the rights of the innocent. The new law would require both a conviction of a crime and proof that the property in question was connected to the crime for assets to be seized and appropriated. Civil asset forfeiture was an old idea poorly implemented and damaging to both police departments and communities. With this legislation, Florida can be considered a national leader in due process and civil rights.”

“Nobody should lose their money or property without being convicted of a crime,” stated Justin Pearson of the non-profit national advocacy law firm Institute for Justice, which has been actively involved in defending individuals in multiple civil forfeiture cases. “This good bill would return Florida to its rightful place among those states that value property rights.”

"We are one step closer to reforming a broken system that leads to unjust seizures of small business owners' property,” stated Tim Nungesser, Florida Legislative Director of the National Federation of Independent Business. “Thank you Senator Brandes for fighting to curtail government overreach."

"Seizing a citizen’s property without charging him or her with a crime borders on highway robbery," declared ACLU of Florida Director of Public Policy Michelle Richardson.  “It’s fundamentally un-American to let the government deprive a person of his belongings if the offense is so minor or the case so tenuous that it doesn’t result in a conviction. SB 1044 will make sure this no longer happens in Florida.  We applaud Senator Brandes for championing this legislation.”

The legislation eliminates civil forfeiture in the state of Florida. Under the proposal, a seizure of assets or property may only take place following the arrest of a property owner, and the final forfeiture of those assets or property under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act may only be completed after a defendant has been convicted of a criminal act which has rendered the property as contraband articles. The bill comes amid growing national attention on the use of civil forfeiture by law enforcement agencies throughout the country. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the restructuring of federal asset forfeiture protocols, and the Institute for Justice criticized Florida’s asset forfeiture laws in a 2010 report, grading the state “D” on the issue.

For more information on SB 1044 please visit: