For Immediate Release
ACLU Renews Call for Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Following Florida Legislature Report
TALLAHASSEE - Last Friday, the Florida Legislature Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) released a report entitled “Civil Asset Forfeiture in Florida: Policies and Practices.”
Civil asset forfeiture laws allow police to seize, and then keep or sell, any private property they allege is involved in a crime. Owners need not even be arrested or convicted for cars, cash, and in some cases even real estate to be taken away permanently by the government. Florida’s civil forfeiture statute has led to police agencies using the seizure of private property as a source of profit rather than a public safety mechanism.
The OPPAGA report states that there are no requirements for local law enforcement agencies in Florida to report such seizures, but its voluntary survey –in which half of Florida’s police and sheriff’s office participated – found almost 19,000 seizure actions over the past five years, with vehicles and currency being the most commonly seized assets. It also found that:
- 86% of seizures are drug related;
- Only 16% of individuals challenge their seizure and only another 1% benefit from a full trial;
- And the proceeds account for only 2.3% of agencies’ operating budgets.
Responding to the report, ACLU of Florida’s Director of Public Policy Michelle Richardson stated:
“Now that OPPAGA’s report has documented how often Florida’s police agencies are seizing personal property, it is time for the legislature, which commissioned the report, to take action to bring an end to abuses of the system.
“The legislature now has the facts and it should take up the reforms proposed in the report, including requiring a conviction before forfeiture, increasing the standard of proof required to match that of criminal cases, and limiting how police agencies can use the proceeds gained by the sale of forfeited assets. There shouldn’t be a profit motive driving police to take property from the public.
“Other states have changed their laws to prevent people and their property from being preyed on by the police that are charged with protecting them. It’s time for Florida to follow suit.”
The full OPPAGA report is available here: http://www.oppaga.state.fl.us/MonitorDocs/Reports/pdf/1510rpt.pdf
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.