Civil Asset Forfeiture And Florida Homestead Exemption

Can anything stop the police from using drug laws to take assets from the citizens of Florida? It appears that the police are immune from economic downturn because they have the option of seizing assets. This is simplified for the police because they have attorneys on staff who are trained to seize assets. The public defender is not available because they are only trying to take your stuff and not trying to take your liberty. Time lines are in place to stack the odds against the accused. Fortunately a new weapon might be available to slow down the police seizure process. The homestead exemption law protects citizens of Florida from being completely desolate. The laws also apply no matter who they are protecting. “These exceptions are unqualified. They create no personal qualifications touching the moral character of the resident nor do they undertake to exclude the vicious, the criminal, or the immoral from the benefits so provided. The law provides for punishment of persons convicted of illegal acts, but the forfeiture of homestead rights guaranteed by our Constitution is not part of the punishment. We find no difficulty in holding that the Florida constitutional exemption of homesteads protects the homestead against every type of claim and judgment except those specifically mentioned in the constitutional provision itself and that, therefore, the claim of homestead is good against the demands of a judgment grounded on a malicious tort. Butterworth v. Caggiano, 605 So. 2d 56, 60 (Fla. 1992).” Florida also provides additional protection by statute. If a homestead is not claimed on a residence the protection can be substantial. Under Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.25(1) A debtor's interest, not to exceed $1,000 in value, in a single motor vehicle is exempt from legal process. Under Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.25(4) if the Article X SECTION  4 Homestead exemption is not applicable A debtor's interest in personal property not to exceed $4,000 is exempt from legal process. An additional $1,000 exemption is outlined in Article X SECTION 4 (2). If the statutory exemptions and constitutional exemptions are added up the total $6,000. Courts have ruled that homestead exemption applies so the $1,000 personal property constitutional exemption should apply. The language of the statutory exemption says that the assets are exempt from legal process. The only exceptions are stated as “following property is exempt from attachment, garnishment, or other legal process”. Additional language is in the statute stating that “This exemption does not apply to a debt owed for child support or spousal support”. The issue has been ruled on in bankruptcy court. “The Constitutional personal property exemption otherwise accorded to Florida debtors in event that debtors were without homestead, legislature's inability to modify this Constitutional exemption meant that $4,000 statutory exemption had to be treated as being in addition to the $1,000 Constitutional exemption, such that debtors with no homestead could exempt up to $5,000, and not just up to $4,000, in personal property pursuant to the Florida Constitution and this exemption statute. In re Bezares, Bkrtcy.M.D.Fla.2007, 377 B.R. 413”. It appears that a victim of asset seizure might be able to use the Florida homestead law and Fla. Stat. 222.25 to shield at least $5,000 from forfeiture and possibly $6,000 if the $1,000 car exemption in 222.25 is allowed. If you are facing asset forfeiture contact Daytona Beach DUI attorney Kevin J. Pitts
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