Twenty-year-old Delane Johnson was not arrested when he consented to a search outside his apartment in July, 2006, and police coerced him into handing over $10,200 and signing Bradenton's Contraband Confiscation Agreement. On February 9, 2007, state Circuit Judge Peter Dubensky rejected the city of Bradenton's motion to dismiss Johnson's legal challenge of the waiver agreement, and ordered police to either return Johnson's cash or file suit for forfeiture against the money in state court. The court determined that the contract signed by Johnson "and the circumstances surrounding the making of the contract fail to comply with even the rudimentary elements of due process."
Though his ruling applies only to Johnson's case, the judge wrote a scathing criticism of Bradenton's waiver agreement policy: "Taken to its logical extreme," Dubensky wrote, the police "could present this agreement to any citizen stopped for any reason and request forfeiture of any item of property" in exchange for signing the document. The judge continued, "It is not remotely conceivable that the citizenry would countenance such a state of affairs."
Bradenton police spokesman stated the his department had not yet decided whether to return Johnson's money to him or file suit for forfeiture. However, the department stands little chance of prevailing in a state forfeiture proceeding, as the statutory deadline for filing a notice of intent to forfeit under Florida law passed last October.
Attorney Varinia Van Ness, co-counsel for Johnson, questioned the impact Dubensky's favorable ruling will have on the police department, stating, "I'm hoping they will no longer use these agreements to take people's property." But if the department continues to go by its policy rather than state laws she may file a motion to reconsider the future of the department's policy. "I would hope they would start obeying the law of the land, so, in the future, this doesn't happen to other people," she said.
this year at a January meeting about the legal challenge to the
waiver agreement policy Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski told
Editorial Board members that he was "really
looking forward to the judge for guidance," stating, "I want to do
the right thing, and I want to follow the law." But
then four days after the judge's strongly worded guidance the
Bradenton Police Department announced that it will continue to follow
policy of completely bypassing the court system, claiming department's
contraband forfeiture agreement supersedes the state law that provides
owners a chance to contest the confiscation in court.
Varinia Van Ness wrote in a letter to the Bradenton Herald published
The minor change gives victims of Bradenton police piracy policy five days to cancel the agreement, making it null and void-still completely bypassing the court system and still far short of "even the rudimentary elements of due process."