More Asset Forfeiture Abuse in Florida
I previously covered an instance of civil asset forfeiture abuse in Bal Harbour, FL. Recently, there’s been allegations of abuse of state forfeiture funds by the South Miami Chief of Police. The Miami Herald quoted me in the following article pertaining to these new allegations levied by the Mayor of South Miami:
South Miami’s mayor is accusing the police chief of using money meant for crime-prevention to pay for an awards dinner. But the chief says he followed the law just as he has been doing during his long career in law enforcement.
Every month, around 100 guests, sometimes more — mostly police brass from different departments in Miami-Dade County — meet to recognize an officer of the month. The departments take turns covering the costs. Some dinners have been known to cost about $4,000, and some have been held at places like the Rusty Pelican in Virginia Key.
Mayor Philip Stoddard said that he had no issue with the dinner itself or the $1,587 cost. What bothered him was the chief’s use of the state forfeiture fund — money collected from the seizure of property linked to illegal activity.
The Americans for Forfeiture Reform’s Florida spokesman Brad R. Schlesinger said the organization, which advocates forfeiture law reform, believes that if authorities find Stoddard’s allegations to be true, they represent serious abuses.
“If allowed to use forfeiture funds without any restrictions, law enforcement officials will be more prone to violate individual Constitutional rights by stopping, searching, and seizing more property than they normally would, just to fill departmental coffers,” Schlesinger said. “By restricting the use of forfeiture funds, the Florida Legislature is trying to limit the profit motive behind the use of asset forfeiture laws in general.”