Seizure of Property or Funds, Medicare Forfeiture Defense, Medicaid Forfeiture Defense, Drug Forfeiture Defense, Government Forfeiture Defense, Civil Forfeiture Defense, Forfeiture of Property or Money
The Civil Forfeiture of Property.
The civil forfeiture of property has become a popular tool for state and federal agencies to combat alleged criminal activity. In Florida, the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, Florida Statutes 932.701 through 932.706, permits the government to seize personal property if there is probable cause to believe that property is either an instrumentality or the proceeds of criminal activity.Typically, a forfeiture action begins when personal property is seized as a result of a violation or arrest. The owner of the personal property is then entitled to notice within five (5) days of the seizure.Your most important right after a seizure is to file a written request for an adversarial preliminary hearing. This request must be made in writing within fifteen (15) calendar days of receipt of the notice. When an adversarial preliminary hearing is held, the Court will review the verified affidavit and any other supporting documents and take testimony to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that the seized property was used, is being used, was attempted to be used, or was intended to be used in violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.While the burden of proof at this initial stage favors the government, the adversarial preliminary hearing is one of the fastest and most effective ways to fight for the return of the property and assert any defenses that exist in the case. Even if unsuccessful at this hearing, the property owner is still entitled to forfeiture proceedings in which the government must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the property was used in the commission of or obtained through the proceeds of criminal activity.The key to success in civil forfeiture actions is to immediately consult with an experienced attorney after the property has been seized, as your best defense is to act quickly.Civil Forfeiture of Property and Money: A New Weapon in the Government’s Arsenal Against Health Fraud and Pill Mills
.More and more recently, we have seen government prosecutors and agencies, including the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU), the U.S. Attorney General’s (AG) Office, and local sheriff and police departments use the Civil Forfeiture Act against health professionals and health facilities in health-related cases.A prompt, aggressive defense to these actions may recover the property or funds seized and, more importantly, can be used to help resolve any pending criminal charges.
Over-Reaching by Government Authorities?Although the government would contend otherwise, we believe the main purpose in the government’s use of forfeitures is to shut down the alleged criminal and make it so he or she cannot hire an attorney to defend the person(s) accused. This does, unfortunately, often work.However, there are defenses and often the government exceeds the bounds of propriety in its overzealousness. We have successfully defended, for example, cases in which:
- A sheriff’s office seized a spouse’s personal car for which she had traded in her old car.
- A teenage daughter’s college account that had in it only money she had earned from her part-time job.
- Money from a business owner’s purse which had been given to her by her mother to pay for her hospital labor and delivery charges.
- Money from a roll-over IRA account which had been invested long before any criminal activity was alleged to have occurred.
- Money from a family member’s account which had come from social security payments made for that person.
Every Person With an Interest in Seized Property Should File a Claim.
If a spouse or other family member has an interest in the property, especially if that person is named on the account or title, that person should file a separate claim for return of the property and demand a Preliminary Adversarial Hearing. Even if the initial hearing is not successful in achieving an early return of the property, such defenses should prevail at the trial of the case.
Types of Health Care Providers Involved.
We have represented or consulted with the following types of health care providers involved in forfeiture cases:
- Pharmacies and Pharmacy Owners
- Pain Management Clinics
- Pain Management Physicians
- Medicaid Providers
- Medicare Providers
- Home Health Agencies Owners.