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Florida city cannot seek forfeiture of drug residence

A Florida appeals court ruled on Sept. 12 that the city of Maitland would not be allowed to seize a residence where marijuana was reportedly grown. The court reasoned that the forfeiture would constitute an excessive penalty. The owner of the home was charged with manufacturing and selling drugs.

According to the ruling, the defendant was able to negotiate a plea agreement that included community service, drug treatment and probation. Without the plea deal, he may have faced up to 47 years in prison if convicted on the drug charges.

The seizure of the house was originally approved by a circuit court judge, but the decision was overturned on appeal. The defendant was not fined as part of his plea agreement, and the appellate court ruled that the forfeiture would constitute a legally excessive fine.

The defendant in this news story avoided a potential long-term prison sentence by agreeing to a plea bargain. Some criminal cases may be resolved through plea bargains for a variety of reasons. For instance, judges and prosecutors may be open to negotiating a plea deal because it could avoid a long and costly trial. A defendant might consider accepting a plea deal because it is a way to resolve the case without facing a trial.

However, plea deals may require the defendant to plead guilty, which could result in a criminal record. A criminal defense lawyer might review a defendant's case to determine whether a plea bargain is in the defendant's best interests. If there are mitigating circumstances or evidence which might exonerate a defendant, it might be worthwhile to take the case to trial. If the jury is persuaded that the defendant might not be guilty, it could vote for an acquittal.

Source: abc-7, "Court blocks FL city from seizing drug house", September 12, 2014

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