In an unusual case regarding the state’s civil forfeiture act, a court allowed Tampa police to seize a dump truck used in a February hit-and-run accident that caused the death of a pedestrian.
David Yribar Hernandez, 46, is the owner of Yribar Jr. Trucking Corp. At 4534 W. Clifton St. in Tampa.
In the early morning hours of Feb. 20, 2017, Hernandez was driving a 2004 Peterbilt dump truck when he allegedly struck and killed pedestrian Stephen J. Waters in a hit-and-run accident near the intersection of E. Columbus Drive and N. 50th Street.
Hernandez faced charges of leaving the scene of a crash with death without rendering help and fleeing a law enforcement officer, He has been released from jail, and the case is ongoing.
As part of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, law enforcement agencies can seize cash, vehicles, and other property either used in a crime or were the spoils of criminal activity. Usually, these petitions are used in connection with drug-related offenses.
According to the Act, when the seizure of property is made, the seizing agency “shall apply, within 10 business days after the date of the seizure, to a court of competent jurisdiction for an order determining whether probable cause exists for the seizure of the property. The application for the probable cause determination must be accompanied by a sworn affidavit and may be filed electronically by reliable electronic means.”
Tampa police went to Hillsborough County Circuit Court March 6 to claim probable cause in seizing Hernandez’s dump truck in the accident that killed Stephen Waters.
According to court records a search warrant issued for the vehicle, human hair was found on the truck’s driver-side headlight. Also, a man named Michael J. Hoechst claims to have witnessed the accident.
As to why the vehicle is considered “contraband,” TPD explained to the court that it was used in the commission of a felony: namely attempting to flee and elude an HCSO deputy. Also noteworthy is that while the arresting officer was a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s he Deputy, it was the Tampa Police Department making the request.
Two days later, a circuit court judge ruled probable cause in seizing the dump truck.
Waters, known as a “devoted son, husband, brother and uncle,” left behind his wife Catherine, with whom he had been married since 2009. Waters, a Gibsonton resident, had been previously arrested for possessing, manufacturing or selling a synthetic drug. A court later deemed Waters indigent and released him to a treatment program as part of a pre-arrest intercept program. Charges were later dropped.
Axis Title was named a co-defendant due to a possible lien on the truck.