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Florida earns a D+ for its civil forfeiture laws:

  • Higher bar to forfeit property, but no conviction required
  • Stronger protections for innocent third-party property owners
  • As much as 85% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

State Forfeiture Laws

Meriting a D+, Florida’s civil forfeiture laws are subpar and need reform, but state and local law enforcement’s use of equitable sharing is even worse—it ranks 48th in the country. The standard of proof for forfeiture in Florida is clear and convincing evidence that the property is connected with criminal activity—a higher standard than that of most states but still lower than the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt required for criminal convictions. In addition, the government bears the burden of disproving any innocent owner claim. But these protections are somewhat overshadowed by a strong incentive to seize: Florida law enforcement agencies get to keep up to 85 percent of forfeited funds.

Making matters worse, Florida law enforcement agencies are not required to report forfeitures. The Institute for Justice obtained some records of forfeiture proceeds through a Florida Public Records Act request. However, these data only reflect forfeitures conducted by the state policing agency; forfeitures occurring at the local or county level are unreported and unknown. The data, which may double count income from participation in the federal equitable sharing program, show that state law enforcement forfeited more than $117 million in currency, real property and vehicles between 2009 and 2014, or about $19.5 million a year.

Show State Law Sources
Standard of proof

Clear and convincing evidence.

Fla. Stat. § 932.704(8); Dep’t of Law Enforcement v. Real Prop., 588 So. 2d 957, 967–68 (Fla. 1991) (requiring clear and convincing standard of proof in forfeiture cases as a matter of constitutional law).

Innocent owner burden


Fla. Stat. § 932.703(6); Gomez v. Vill. of Pinecrest, 41 So. 3d 180, 184–85 & n.2 (Fla. 2010) (explaining that Florida law changed in 1995 to place the burden of proof on the seizing agency).

Profit incentive

Up to 85 percent.

Fla. Stat. § 932.7055(5)(c)(3).

Reporting requirements


State Forfeiture Data

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Forfeiture Proceeds

Year Currency Real Property Vehicles Total
2009 $33,558 $0 $0 $33,558
2010 $110,132,229 $189,500 $35,000 $110,356,729
2011 $111,744 $0 $84,000 $195,744
2012 $1,482,335 $0 $2,800 $1,485,135
2013 $1,369,559 $0 $66,100 $1,435,659
2014 $3,554,535 $0 $9,066 $3,563,600
Total: $116,683,960 $189,500 $196,966 $117,070,425
Average per year $19,447,327 $31,583 $32,828 $19,511,738

Source: Reports of forfeitures conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Other state and local law enforcement agencies are not required to report. It is possible that FDLE proceeds also include income from participation in equitable sharing programs—the data provided were unclear.

Florida ranks 48th for federal forfeiture, with over $412 million in Department of Justice equitable sharing proceeds from 2000 to 2013.

Federal Equitable Sharing

Ranking 48th nationally, Florida law enforcement agencies also generate substantial revenue through the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program. Between 2000 and 2013, Florida agencies received a staggering $412 million in DOJ equitable sharing proceeds, averaging more than $29 million each calendar year. Almost all of these proceeds resulted from joint task forces and investigations. Given the small share of revenue—just 4 percent—accruing to agencies from adoptions, it seems unlikely that Florida law enforcement’s equitable sharing behavior will change significantly in light of the DOJ’s recent policy change curbing adoptions. Finally, Florida agencies also brought in more than $100 million between fiscal years 2000 and 2013, or nearly $7.2 million annually, from the Treasury Department.

View Local Law Enforcement Data
(calendar years)
(fiscal years)
2000 $19,707,238 $9,027,000
2001 $46,666,632 $8,765,000
2002 $12,423,163 $14,350,000
2003 $14,027,532 $5,080,000
2004 $14,371,191 $4,648,000
2005 $16,978,255 $6,054,000
2006 $20,483,263 $10,477,000
2007 $37,249,820 $5,878,000
2008 $59,440,310 $5,289,000
2009 $35,906,737 $5,148,000
2010 $28,328,804 $11,853,000
2011 $33,929,000 $5,114,000
2012 $49,017,452 $8,369,000
2013 $24,092,897 $365,000
Total $412,622,293 $100,417,000
Average Per Year $29,473,021 $7,172,643

DOJ Equitable Sharing,
Adoptive vs. Joint, 2000-2013

Joint Task Forces and Investigations

DOJ Equitable Sharing Proceeds, 2000-2013

Sources: Institute for Justice analysis of DOJ forfeiture data obtained by FOIA; Treasury Forfeiture Fund Accountability Reports. Data include civil and criminal forfeitures. Because DOJ figures represent calendar years and Treasury figures cover fiscal years, they cannot be added.

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