National Advocacy Groups Support Florida Civil Forfeiture Reform Bill

Date: January 21, 2016

National Advocacy Groups
Support Florida Civil Forfeiture Reform Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January
21st, 2016

CONTACT:
Chris Spencer (850) 487-5022
Spencer.Chris@FLSenate.gov


National Advocacy Groups Support Florida
Civil Forfeiture Reform Bill

Legislation will eliminate the practice of
civil forfeiture in Florida

Tallahassee,
FL-
Today
Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and Representative Matt Caldwell
(R-Lehigh Acres) announced the endorsement of Senate Bill 1044 and House Bill
883, related to forfeiture of contraband, by several prominent national policy
advocacy organizations. The groups supporting the legislation are Americans for
Tax Reform, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the James Madison Institute, and the
Institute for Justice.

“This
legislation proposes a very simple concept: if the government is going to seize
your property they must charge you with a crime – and if the government wants
to keep your property they must convict you,” stated Senator Brandes. “Property
rights are a bedrock principle of our republic. A heavy burden should always be
on the government when seizing property from a Floridian.”

“Momentum
is growing behind this proposal and the support illustrates how important this
initiative is for our citizens,” stated Representative Caldwell. “Floridians
deserve to be protected by the highest legal standard when the government
attempts to seize their property or assets. At its core, this legislation is
fundamentally about property rights and protecting citizens from abuses by
their government.”

Grover
Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, issued the following
statement: “The seizure of assets and property by government through civil
asset forfeiture is taxation without representation. If the government is going
to seize property, citizens should be entitled to the highest standard of due
process to challenge that seizure. More states should follow Florida’s lead by
adopting legislation like this to protect property owners and taxpayers from
abuses of the forfeiture process by their government.”

We
applaud Senator Brandes and Representative Caldwell for working to reform the
broken system that law enforcement uses to seize private property,” said Tim
Nungesser, Florida Legislative Director of the NFIB. “Small business owners,
who often deal in cash and carry those assets with them to conduct their
business, are very exposed to the potential for civil forfeiture seizures. As a
result, an overwhelming majority of small business owners surveyed agree that a
person should be charged and convicted of a crime before their assets can be
seized.”

“Nobody
should lose their property without being convicted of a crime,” stated Justin
Pearson, managing attorney of the Institute for Justice’s Florida office.
“Florida’s civil forfeiture law has caused the Sunshine State to fall behind
the national trend to improve property rights. This bill is an important step
towards fixing this abusive system to strengthen the protection of property
rights.”

“The
fundamentals of property rights and due process are among the bedrock of our
society — critical enough to be preserved in our Constitution. When those
rights are infringed upon, we will fight to protect them,” said Sal Nuzzo, Vice
President of Policy at The James Madison Institute (JMI). “JMI is pleased to
join leaders like Senator Brandes and Representative Caldwell in the effort to
safeguard all Floridians from having their property seized without due process.”

“Florida
law allows law enforcement to seize your belongings even if you haven’t been
convicted of a crime.  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. The bills discussed
today will make sure this no longer happens in Florida,” stated Michelle
Richardson, Florida Public Policy Director of the ACLU. “Proponents of civil
asset forfeiture claim that judicial review after the fact validates current
seizure programs. However, that is not comparable to the protections offered in
a criminal prosecution –like a state provided attorney for low income people.
Additionally, a new senate report shows that 86% of people do not bother
formally challenging the seizure. The system is so weighted in favor of law
enforcement that it is fundamentally unfair.”

The
legislation eliminates civil forfeiture in the state of Florida. Under the
proposal, a forfeiture of assets or property under the Florida Contraband
Forfeiture Act may only be pursued after a defendant has been convicted of a
criminal act which has rendered the property as contraband forfeiture. 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: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2016/1044

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