• FreeAdvice has a new Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, effective May 25, 2018.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our Terms of Service and use of cookies.

Can a Degree Be Subject To Civil Forfeiture?

Accident - Bankruptcy - Criminal Law / DUI - Business - Consumer - Employment - Family - Immigration - Real Estate - Tax - Traffic - Wills   Please click a topic or scroll down for more.

ResearchDoc

Junior Member
What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? Florida/Pennsylvania

My question regards a Medical Degree being subject to civil forfeiture. I have an M.D./Ph.D from a Florida University where I attended 2000-2007. From 2002-the end of my degree I ran a Web Blog that was dedicated to various topics, most of which were geeky computer, encryption, and privacy/technology issues (I have a Bioengineering undergrad degree). It became very popular, and I started using advertisements and pay-per-click ads. I was able avoid taking out the average 400k$ in loans per person for a combined program and only acquired 50K$ in loans for both me and my girlfriend in the same program. She also had a subblog on my server space in our home.

We both moved to PA at the end of 2007, and I sold my 3 big servers to help with the closing costs of our new house. I got a free netbook with a deal from Comcast, and added a blog detailing "Running a blog with just a netbook". It was hosted on a modest online serverspace, and enormously popular, and with just advertising alone from all the webpages over 15 months, I was able to defray 11000$ in Federal loans.

Where it gets interesting is that on my hosting site the girlfriend started a blog about natural abortion/contraception remedies, complete with relevant information, side effects, purchasing locations ect. She also detailed a blog "What to do when your employer insurance won't pay for contraception". It listed various ways to inquire about and get "free sample" birth control pills or IUDs while on a routine OB visit that are covered by "conscience objection policies". Her subblogs earned another 22000K in revenue since 2007, and we paid off our loans in entirety above that cost. Also, we paid all applicable taxes, state and Federal.

8 months ago we received a letter from a Florida Sheriffs department stating her webpages were in violation of Florida Statute "797.02 Advertising drugs, etc., for abortion", and were illegal even though we lived in Pennsylvania, and to remove them immediately. We didn't really consider it anything to worry about, but a month ago we received another letter in which we were notified that a criminal investigation was being conducted, and that any assets that were obtained from the ad revenue from the site were subject to civil forfeiture. I told them good luck getting the loan repayment money back from the Federal Department of Education. That is when they told us that the proceeds, that is, the final product of the loan repayment was subject to forfeiture, and the Florida Board of Governors could and would place a permanent hold on all transcripts and documents relating to the degrees. Additionally, any further income generated by the degrees (we are residents in Philadelphia) could also be subject to forfeiture. In addition, after the forfeiture, if we continued to the the title "MD/PhD" we could be in violation of a Florida statute that makes it illegal to use a doctoral title without holding the degree.

My question is can this really happen. This particular Sheriffs Department is notorious for "policing" the web, and I am just wondering whether any of this is legit, or they are just trying to scare us to achieve some political points. I talked to our Hospital counsel about the degree issue, and he just laughed and told me to worry about getting board certified and nothing else.
 


Ohiogal

Queen Bee
Quite frankly an attorney that specializes in the computer issues needs to take a look at the information contained on the blogs in order to determine if she did cross the line in any way.
 

BOR

Senior Member
A degree is NOT subject to foreiture law, only the licenses that come with them. An attorney can be disbarred, a doctor can have his medical license suspended, etc.

Degrees are awarded by the Regents of the College/University, once completed, they are yours. If your profession, bioengineering requires a license, it is possible it can be suspended for X reason??

That's my 2 cents!
 

tranquility

Senior Member
Go to Electronic Frontier Foundation | Defending Freedom in the Digital World and see if they can provide any guidance. While I don't think the Sheriff is going to try to press such an issue for a number of legal problems (Over a misdemeanor?!!), when contacted by law enforcement it is never a best policy to blow them off.

I do note also, that you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. I would use them and not directly answer the Sheriff in any way other than to say, "I'm sorry, but I'd like to speak to an attorney before any questioning."
 

ResearchDoc

Junior Member
A degree is NOT subject to foreiture law, only the licenses that come with them. An attorney can be disbarred, a doctor can have his medical license suspended, etc.
Professional misconduct is not the question, for which licensure can be revoked. My provisional medical license (I am a Neurology Resident) is based on my MD/PhD, passing the USMLE exam, and having medical command under an Attending Physician at my Hospital.

What I think they are saying is that the web content of the blog is illegal under Florida law, and the revenue generated by the ads on it was directly used to pay off US Dept of Education MD/PhD loans. I guess they consider the loans sort of like a mortgage. If you pay a mortgage with tainted money, the house can be taken ect. They are saying I paid for the student loans with "tainted" money, so the actual degree(s) they paid off are subject to forfeiture.

***I always had a caption on my blog(s) "Please visit our kind sponsors. Money earned here will be used to directly pay off our loans and get us in the black so we can buy 3 brand new AMD servers for full and complete blog/forum hosting, and a dedicated facebook, twitter, and Skype interlink!!"

Are you saying that the Sheriff can actually seize my license and not my degree?

While I don't think the Sheriff is going to try to press such an issue for a number of legal problems (Over a misdemeanor?!!)
This same department prosecuted a woman for posting two topless pictures of herself on a home blog (2 misdemeanors), and forced her to pay thousands of dollars in "storage" fees to reclaim the car they seized from her. But she LIVED in their county. I LIVE in Pennsylvania, and my server host is in the Netherlands.
 
Last edited:

tranquility

Senior Member
Yes, civil procedure issues are some of the "legal problems" I spoke of. That, along with the actual person doing the advertising may be your girlfriend and whether you were a "publisher" or a common carrier.

That's without even getting to the first amendment issues. Related to the Civ Pro issues of getting anything from you at all related to your degree and the fact is is not settled law you have entered the state in order for them to have jurisdiction in the first place. (Although this may be circumvented if you were in the state when they claim you committed the crime. How long ago were you there? Does anyone on the list know the SOL for this?)
 
Last edited:

ResearchDoc

Junior Member
We lived in Florida until mid 2007. We moved to Pennsylvania 2 weeks after we took the USMLE in FL. Because our closing costs were kind of high, I sold my 3 Intel servers to make up the difference. I kept all the website files though to later upload to a paid hosting site in the Netherlands.

But the blogs/webpages in question were never created or published until after we actually had settled in Pennsylvania. That is where I got the free Netbook from Comcast with our internet/Cable/Phone package, and began running the website from a paid webhost.

They appear to be claiming that the county has jurisdiction because the website is viewable from the Florida County, and violates the Florida Statute. I looked at the statute on a legal site, and the site also cross references some obscenity and advertising statutes, for which Sheriffs are called to "vigorously enforce".


If you look at other Sheriffs departments from high profile cases, they all seem to say the same thing: "If the content begins or ends in Florida, we have jurisdiction and we will prosecute you".

But everything we do is based in PA, and hosted in the Netherlands. No webpage regarding the content in question ever was written or was hosted in FL.
 

tranquility

Senior Member
You keep trying to clarify, but I get the jist. However, foreign servers and out of state is not a get out of jail free card regarding jurisdiction on crimes. (Or, civil for that matter.) There are many difficulties to the case and I think it problematical to the Sheriff in many ways, as I have explained.

However, blowing off guys with guns (and awesome governmental power) is an extremely bad idea for many reasons. Just because it's hard does not mean a cash-strapped governmental agency doesn't think they've found a way to raise some cash from the internet. A precedent or two and it will be like manna from heaven simply because someone in outer podunk can click on a link. With the legal theory that all the benefits from your ill-gotten gain under some civil forfeiture statute might be getting a blue-nosed Sheriff all a tingle with the thought of a new coffee maker for the squad room.

Remain silent. Go to the EFF. Maybe pay for an hour at an attorney, just in case.
 

Sponsored Ad

Top