Update: For the first 9 months of 2016, the Tampa Police Department seized and impunded 263 vehicles under Tampa ordinance 14-30.
Forfeiture is a corrupting cash cow for the Tampa Police Department. By taking a person's vehicle and then charging them hundreds of dollars in towing and storing charges the Tampa Police Department is leaving families in financial ruin. Then to add insult to injury, in misdemeanor possession of marijuana cases, the Tampa Police Department is imposing a civil penalty of $500 which must be paid before a person can get their vehicle back.
That's right. TPD is taking a person's vehicle because they possessed a tiny misdemeanor amount of cannabis. Often this transportation is the only way a person has to get to work or to take their children to school. And this impound and $500 penalty must be paid immediately, before the person even gets a court date. And the penalty is in addition to anything imposed in the criminal case.
So now if you get stopped for a minor traffic infraction and the officer searches your vehicle and finds a small amount of marijuana - the officer can impound your vehicle and leave you sitting on the curb. I recently had a case where the person sat on the curb with a "notice to appear" citation for possession of marijuana. Even though the person was not being formally arrested and taken to jail the officer impounded the vehicle anyway.
Does TPD do this in every misdemeanor possession of marijuana case when the marijuana is found in a vehicle? No. Instead, the TPD can selectively enforce this provision. Some people keep their car while other people watch their vehicle get impounded.
Such a practice of civil forfeiture is not allowed in misdemeanor cases under state law. Florida Statute Section 932.701 (2)(a)(5) of the “Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act” allows for the civil forfeiture of vehicles use to transport drugs only when the crime is a felony. It provides:
5. Any personal property, including, but not limited to, any vessel, aircraft, item, object, tool, substance, device, weapon, machine, vehicle of any kind, money, securities, books, records, research, negotiable instruments, or currency, which was used or was attempted to be used as an instrumentality in the commission of, or in aiding or abetting in the commission of, any felony, whether or not comprising an element of the felony, or which is acquired by proceeds obtained as a result of a violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.So TPD got around this limitation by enacting Tampa Code Section 14-30. The code does not mention the word "marijuana" or "cannabis." Instead it refers to "any misdemeanor violation of F.S. Ch. 893" which would include possession of tiny amounts of marijuana or drug paraphernalia.
Forget Burglary Cases - TPD is Impounding Vehicles for Misdemeanor Weed
Instead of investigating burglary cases (the vast majority of which go unsolved with very little investigation), the Tampa Police officers are following the money and impounding vehicles for possession of marijuana offenses.
How can the Tampa Police Department impound a vehicle under Tampa Code Section 14-30 and assess a $500 civil penalty in addition to towing and storage charges? I've listed the code section below.
What can you do about it? Make sure each owner or co-owner of the vehicle immediately fills out the Request for Trial. Challenge the impoundment in court. Show up for trial with witnesses if you can not afford to hire an attorney. Send the Request for Trial by hand delivery and also certified mail. Make sure to fight to get your money back so TPD has an incentive to do actual police work instead of engaging this behavior. Make sure to cash your check for $500.
Did TPD Impound Your Vehicle?
Also, tell your story below so other people can see what happen to you and whether the $500 you paid was returned to you.
Tampa Code Section 14-30
Sec. 14-30. Use of motor vehicle to facilitate prostitution, lewdness or drug related crimes.permanent link to this piece of content
(1) Co-owner means any owner of a motor vehicle in common with another regardless of marital status or the conjunctive/disjunctive term used on registration or title documents.
(2) Owner means the person(s)or entity legally entitled to possession of a particular motor vehicle whether or not a registered or titled owner.
(3) Reason to know. A person or entity shall be deemed to have "reason to know" a motor vehicle may be used in violation of this section if such person or entity knows the person who was granted control of the vehicle has previously been arrested for any prostitution, lewdness or drug related offense or if other facts demonstrate knowledge that the person granted control of the vehicle has in the past, or is presently inclined to engage in prostitution, lewdness or unlawful drug activity.
(b) It shall be a violation of this section and a motor vehicle shall be subject to impoundment whenever the vehicle:
(1) Was used or intended to be used to facilitate the commission or attempted commission of an act of prostitution or lewdness as those terms are defined in F.S. § 796.07; or
(2) Was used, intended, or attempted to be used to facilitate the commission or attempted commission of any misdemeanor violation of F.S. Ch. 893;
by any owner or co-owner of said vehicle or by any other person utilizing or occupying said vehicle with the express or implied consent of any owner or co-owner.
(c) It shall be a complete defense to any legal action arising out of this section that at the time of the incident resulting in impoundment, the vehicle was under the control of a person other than an owner or co-owner and none of said owners or co-owners knew, or had reason to know, that the vehicle may be used in a manner constituting a violation of this section. If all owners/co-owners appear to qualify as innocent owners, payment of the penalty specified in this section shall not be required to secure release of the vehicle.
(d) Procedures upon impoundment of a motor vehicle pursuant to this section:
(1) When a law enforcement officer determines that a violation of this section has occurred, the officer will arrange for the subject vehicle to be transported to the police impound lot. A notice of impoundment shall be provided to any present owner and to the person in lawful control of the vehicle. The notice of impoundment shall state the reason for impounding the vehicle and outline procedures to obtain release of the vehicle. The notice of impoundment shall also advise owners of the right to a hearing in the event they choose to challenge the impoundment of the vehicle. Unless hand-delivered at the time of impoundment, the notice of impoundment shall be sent by certified mail to all registered owners, within seven (7) business days of the date of impoundment. This notice may be sent together with any notice required pursuant to F.S. § 713.78. Written notice of impoundment shall also be provided within seven (7) days to all properly perfected lien holders and lessors.
(2) Any owner or co-owner may obtain release of the vehicle upon payment of the penalty provided herein plus towing, storage and mailing charges. The owner will be provided with an opportunity to elect to challenge the impoundment of the vehicle in court pursuant to the procedures provided in subsection (d)(3). If the owner elects to challenge the impoundment under these procedures, the owner may obtain possession of the vehicle by payment of the penalty plus towing and storage which when collected by the city shall be considered a bond to be refunded to the owner in the event the owner prevails at trial. If the owner declines to tender the full amount of the penalty plus the cost of towing, accrued storage and mailing costs, the vehicle will remain impounded pending conclusion of the judicial proceedings.
(3) Any owner or other interested party with legal standing may deliver to the Tampa Police Department Legal Unit a request for trial. The request for trial must be hand delivered or sent by certified mail.
Within five (5) business days of receipt of a request for trial the city must either file a hearing request in the appropriate court seeking judicial review of the lawfulness of the impound or notify the person who requested the trial that the city will not assess the five hundred dollars ($500.00) civil penalty and that the vehicle may be retrieved from the impound lot upon payment of towing, storage, and mailing costs.
If within five (5) business days of receipt of a proper and timely request the city fails to file the hearing request or fails to notify the requesting person that no penalty will be assessed, storage charges cease to accrue as of the fifth business day after receipt of the request and no penalty shall be assessed.
Telephonic notification shall be attempted.
If unsuccessful, notification by U.S. Mail shall be deemed timely if delivered to the U.S. Postal Service within five (5) business days following receipt of the request for trial.
(4) Nothing in this section shall be construed to waive or alter the provisions of F.S. § 713.78 in the event no person or entity takes possession of the vehicle.
(5) Violation of this section is a civil, not criminal, offense. In any action arising from the impoundment of a motor vehicle pursuant to this section, the court shall determine whether the city has established by clear and convincing evidence that a violation of subsection (b) has occurred.
(Ord. No. 2011-152, § 1, 12-15-2011)
What does TPD Form 1056 (11/11) provide?NOTICE OF IMPOUNDMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLE
PURSUANT TO TAMPA CODE SECTION 14-30
Motor Vehicle Make:
Other Person Claiming Ownership:
Date of Impound:
TPD Case No.
YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED that the above-described vehicle has been impounded by the Tampa Police Department due to use of the vehicle in violation of Tampa Code Section 14-30. Pursuant to teh Code, the vehicle is being held pending payment of a civil penalty in the amount of $500 (plus applicable towing and storing charges, if any). Personal property inside the vehicle will be released to the owner upon request.
IF YOU WISH TO OBTAIN THE IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF THE VEHICLE and waive your right to challenge the impoundment in court, you must pay the total amount of the civil penalty together with towing and storage at the Tampa Police Impound Lot located at 110 S. 34th Street (south of Adamo Drive) between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Only money orders and bank checks are accepted.
IF YOU WISH TO CHALLENGE THE IMPOUNDMENT IN COURT you may still obtain the release of your vehicle by posting bond in the total amount due ($500 plus towing and accrued storage). This payment is also made at the Tampa Police Impound Lot. Otherwise, you may choose to leave the vehicle at the Impound Lot pending the outcome of the court case. Note that this will be a civil court action completely separate and independent of your criminal case. Note that the storage charge will accrue at the rate of $25 per day and will be assessed unless you prevail in court. Use the form on the back of this notice to request a trial regarding the impounded of your vehicle.
IF YOU CHOOSE TO CHALLENGE THE IMPOUNDMENT IN COURT you must notify the City of Tampa Police Department by using the form below. The City will prepare and file the charging document pursuant to the applicable rules of procedure. Hearing dates and times are set by the court. Notice will be sent to the address you provide below.
REQUEST FOR TRIAL
TAMPA CODE SECTION 14-30
TPD Case No.:
Vehicle Make, Model, VIN:
I HEREBY REQUEST A TRIAL BEFORE A JUDGE OF THE APPROPRIATE COURT REGARDING THE IMPOUNDMENT OF MY VEHICLE. I UNDERSTAND THAT IF I FAIL TO APPEAR FOR THE TRIAL, I WILL BE DEEMED BY THE COURT TO HAVE WAIVED MY RIGHT TO A FINAL HEARING AND FINAL JUDGMENT WILL BE ENTERED AGAINST ME TOGETHER WITH COURT COSTS.
IMPORTANT INSTRUCTION TO VEHICLE OWNER:
If you wish to contest the impoundment of your vehicle in court, the above form "request for trial" must be hand delivered or sent by certified mail to: