705.103 Procedure for abandoned or lost property.—

(1) Whenever a law enforcement officer ascertains that an article of lost or abandoned property is present on public property and is of such nature that it can be easily removed, the officer shall take such article into custody and shall make a reasonable attempt to ascertain the rightful owner or lienholder pursuant to the provisions of this section.

(2) Whenever a law enforcement officer ascertains that an article of lost or abandoned property is present on public property and is of such nature that it cannot be easily removed, the officer shall cause a notice to be placed upon such article in substantially the following form:

NOTICE TO THE OWNER AND ALL PERSONS INTERESTED IN THE ATTACHED PROPERTY. This property, to wit:   (setting forth brief description)   is unlawfully upon public property known as   (setting forth brief description of location)   and must be removed within 5 days; otherwise, it will be removed and disposed of pursuant to chapter 705, Florida Statutes. The owner will be liable for the costs of removal, storage, and publication of notice. Dated this:   (setting forth the date of posting of notice)  , signed:   (setting forth name, title, address, and telephone number of law enforcement officer)  .

Such notice shall be not less than 8 inches by 10 inches and shall be sufficiently weatherproof to withstand normal exposure to the elements. In addition to posting, the law enforcement officer shall make a reasonable effort to ascertain the name and address of the owner. If such is reasonably available to the officer, she or he shall mail a copy of such notice to the owner on or before the date of posting. If the property is a motor vehicle as defined in s. 320.01(1) or a vessel as defined in s. 327.02, the law enforcement agency shall contact the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles in order to determine the name and address of the owner and any person who has filed a lien on the vehicle or vessel as provided in s. 319.27(2) or (3) or s. 328.15(1). On receipt of this information, the law enforcement agency shall mail a copy of the notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the owner and to the lienholder, if any. If, at the end of 5 days after posting the notice and mailing such notice, if required, the owner or any person interested in the lost or abandoned article or articles described has not removed the article or articles from public property or shown reasonable cause for failure to do so, the following shall apply:

(a) For abandoned property, the law enforcement agency may retain any or all of the property for its own use or for use by the state or unit of local government, trade such property to another unit of local government or state agency, donate the property to a charitable organization, sell the property, or notify the appropriate refuse removal service.

(b) For lost property, the officer shall take custody and the agency shall retain custody of the property for 90 days. The agency shall publish notice of the intended disposition of the property, as provided in this section, during the first 45 days of this time period.

1. If the agency elects to retain the property for use by the unit of government, donate the property to a charitable organization, surrender such property to the finder, sell the property, or trade the property to another unit of local government or state agency, notice of such election shall be given by an advertisement published once a week for 2 consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the property was found if the value of the property is more than $100. If the value of the property is $100 or less, notice shall be given by posting a description of the property at the law enforcement agency where the property was turned in. The notice must be posted for not less than 2 consecutive weeks in a public place designated by the law enforcement agency. The notice must describe the property in a manner reasonably adequate to permit the rightful owner of the property to claim it.

2. If the agency elects to sell the property, it must do so at public sale by competitive bidding. Notice of the time and place of the sale shall be given by an advertisement of the sale published once a week for 2 consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the sale is to be held. The notice shall include a statement that the sale shall be subject to any and all liens. The sale must be held at the nearest suitable place to that where the lost or abandoned property is held or stored. The advertisement must include a description of the goods and the time and place of the sale. The sale may take place no earlier than 10 days after the final publication. If there is no newspaper of general circulation in the county where the sale is to be held, the advertisement shall be posted at the door of the courthouse and at three other public places in the county at least 10 days prior to sale. Notice of the agency's intended disposition shall describe the property in a manner reasonably adequate to permit the rightful owner of the property to identify it.

(3) If the property is sold at public sale pursuant to subparagraph (2)(b)2., the agency shall deduct from the proceeds the costs of transportation, storage, and publication of notice, and any balance of proceeds shall be deposited into an interest-bearing account not later than 30 days after the date of the sale and held there for 1 year. The agency shall provide a bill of sale clearly stating that the sale is subject to any and all liens. The rightful owner of the property may claim the balance of the proceeds within 1 year from the date of the above stated deposit by making application to the agency. If no rightful owner comes forward with a claim to the property within the designated year, the balance of the proceeds shall be deposited into the State School Fund.

(4) The owner of any abandoned or lost property who, after notice as provided in this section, does not remove such property within the specified period shall be liable to the law enforcement agency for all costs of removal, storage, and destruction of such property, less any salvage value obtained by disposal of the property. Upon final disposition of the property, the law enforcement officer shall notify the owner, if known, of the amount owed. In the case of an abandoned vessel or motor vehicle, any person who neglects or refuses to pay such amount is not entitled to be issued a certificate of registration for such vessel or motor vehicle, or any other vessel or motor vehicle, until such costs have been paid. The law enforcement officer shall supply the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles with a list of persons whose vessel registration privileges or whose motor vehicle privileges have been revoked under this subsection. Neither the department nor any other person acting as agent thereof shall issue a certificate of registration to a person whose vessel or motor vehicle registration privileges have been revoked, as provided by this subsection, until such costs have been paid.

(5) Whoever opposes, obstructs, or resists any law enforcement officer or any person authorized by the law enforcement officer in the discharge of her or his duties as provided in this section upon conviction is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

(6) Any law enforcement officer or any person authorized by the law enforcement officer is immune from prosecution, civil or criminal, for reasonable, good faith trespass upon real property while in the discharge of duties imposed by this section.

(7) The rightful owner shall be liable for the law enforcement agency's costs for transportation and storage of lost or abandoned property and the agency's cost for publication of notice of disposition of lost property. If the rightful owner does not pay such costs within 30 days of making claim to the property, title to the property shall vest in the law enforcement agency.

History.—s. 3, ch. 87-82; s. 1, ch. 90-307; s. 12, ch. 94-241; s. 471, ch. 94-356; s. 1, ch. 97-51; s. 791, ch. 97-102; s. 29, ch. 2000-197; s. 10, ch. 2006-309.

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Last modified: March 18, 2014