Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Carmel on the Case: Adverse Possession Lesson
Who wouldn't like to live in a beautiful house for free? One man apparently tried, but an old Florida law turned out to be a big problem for him. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
Thirty-three-year-old Jason Banton, an unemployed air conditioning mechanic was already living in this Miramar house when he showed up at the Broward Property Appraiser's Office with a friend.
Jason Banton: "I'm just a law abiding citizen trying to do something that is legal."
He was trying to file a claim on the property using adverse possession, an old law that has been used by people trying to claim homes without buying them.
The law allows ownership of an abandoned property after seven years of paying taxes and improving the property.
Carmel Cafiero: "What gives you the right to take possession of such property?"
Jason Banton: "First I want to tell you I reserve all my rights and I waive none of them."
His answers were evasive to my questions and those of the appraiser's chief enforcement officer who told him his application was rejected.
Ron Cacciatore: "So I don't know where you come up with this."
Jason Banton: "This is a legal case. It's a civil case. I will talk to my attorney."
Ron Cacciatore: "Go talk to him because you come up with more nonsense than the man in the moon."
The house in question is in Silver Falls, a gated miramar community.
Management there ordered Banton banned based on the belief he had no right to the property.
When he tried to re-enter, he got into an altercation with police. In his truck, a loaded handgun and rifle Banton has a concealed weapons permit.
Jason Banton: "I'm a Rastafarian. I believe in God, peace and love."
The incident put Banton on trial for resisting arrest without violence and battery on a law enforcement officer.
Officer Andrew Pedrero: "He punched me, to the right side of my face - it hit the bottom of my right lip."
But Banton testified he did not hit the officer, and that he is the one who got hit in the face.
Jason Banton: "This will teach you not to (beep) with Miramar."
Banton was also questioned about taking over the property.
Joshua Higgins: "Did you think you could go and get yourself a $300,000 house by cutting the grass and filing out a piece of paperwork? Yes or no?"
Jason Banton: "No, at that time I didn't know the price of the house."
The jury found Banton guilty of resisting arrest without violence, a misdemeanor.
David Rowe: "He invested in real estate - just as Henry Flagler did your honor."
At sentencing his attorney asked for probation.
David Rowe: "The police misconduct in this particular case raises 'rancid memories' of jackboots, goose steps, and water hoses your honor."
The state wanted a 90 day jail sentence.
Jason Fletcher: "We're not asking for the maximum 364 days in the Broward County Jail."
Judge Andrew Siegel sentenced Banton to probation for a year with the conditions he look for a job, not return to the Silver Falls Community and write a heartfelt letter of apology to the police officer.
Judge Andrew Siegel: "I am concerned with Mr. Banton's actions given the, the occupancy of the property."
And he gave Banton a lesson in the law.
Judge Andrew Siegel: "The law of adverse possession that exists on the books, was not designed for an urban society. It was designed for rural land out somewhere in the middle of nowhere where nobody can pay attention to what you're doing"
As you might expect Banton was relieved.
Jason Banton: "Well, I'm quite happy with the system, how the case turned out."
Carmel Cafiero: "If you're thinking adverse possession sounds like something you want to try, you might want to think again. The law changed two months ago and now people who just move into a property can be charged with trespassing and theft."
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