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Senate tees up civil asset forfeiture bill for floor vote

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A proposal to stop law enforcement officials from wantonly confiscating Floridians’ property was amended and discussed in the Florida Senate on Thursday.

The proposal – SB 1044 by Sen. Jeff Brandes – got a final tune up before heading to the Senate floor for a full vote, which is scheduled for Friday.

The St. Petersburg Republican introduced four tweaks to his bill, all of which were adopted.

Though he faced queries from Republican Sens. Charlie Dean and Greg Evers as well as Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner about whether the changes were approved by the Florida Sheriffs’ Association, Brandes assured his questioners all of the changes were agreed-upon compromise language written in consultation with law enforcement.

The amendments clarify there must be a “rational nexus” between the arrest and the seizure of any property, with some limited exceptions; require the seizing agency (i.e. the police) to cover the costs of storing seized property and paying for any damage to it; and that any bond issued regarding confiscated property shall be paid to the claimant unless otherwise agreed to.

Dean, a former Citrus County sheriff, raised an issue over whether it was unreasonable to expect police to keep high-end items – his example was “a 1955 Thunderbird with only 3,000 miles on it” – in the same conditions as its suspected criminal owner would.

All the same, the amendments were adopted without objection. More discussion on that issue is expected Friday afternoon.

A minor drafting error was also stricken from the bill.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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