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Court blocks Maitland from seizing drug house

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An appeals court Friday said the city of Maitland cannot seek the forfeiture of a house where marijuana was grown and sold because it would be an excessive penalty. The case stemmed from the arrest of Joseph Farley on charges of manufacturing and selling drugs from a home that a judge later valued at between $238,000 and $295,000. Farley could have faced maximum penalties of 47 years in prison and $37,000 in fines but negotiated a plea deal that included probation, drug treatment, community service and no fines, according to Friday’s ruling by the 5th District Court of Appeal. A circuit judge approved the city’s request for forfeiture of the house, but the appeals court overturned that ruling, saying forfeiture would be a legally excessive fine. “Farley received no prison time. Apparently, since Farley’s sentence was approved in a plea agreement, the harm he caused was not considered too great by the trial court,” said the ruling by appeals-court judges Thomas Sawaya and Wendy Berger and Senior Judge Charles Harris. “There appears to be no bright-line rule, but no case has been cited in which an appellate court has approved a forfeiture in excess of six times the maximum fine. We decline to be the first.”

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