Adverse possession arrest disputed

PALM BEACH COUNTY, FL (WFLX)--A man at the center of an adverse possession case has accused the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office of overreaching after deputies ordered him away from the home and arrested him.

Jason Friedman said the home in the 12100 block of 54th Street North near Royal Palm Beach appeared to be vacant and abandoned when he filed for adverse possession earlier this year.

"We found the ideal, perfect home that my wife has been looking for," Friedman said.

Friedman said the home's owner had the police force him out less than two weeks after he filed for adverse possession.

"The [deputy said] to my wife, "You have five minutes to get all of your property and get out of this house or I'm taking you to jail."

Robert Norvell, Friedman's attorney, said the matter should be civil, not criminal.

"He had one to day to return back and clear out all of his family's possessions," Norvell said. "And, he's facing a significant felony charge."

Friedman was charged with several crimes, including burglary and theft, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said.

"It can be criminal if you're trespassing on another person's property and that person can prove ownership and title of the property," Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said. "That is a crime."

Adverse possession laws are centuries old and, in Florida, the bar is set high.

To adverse possess a home, a home has to be abandoned, the possessor has to have lived in it for seven consecutive year and its taxes have to be current.

Friedman said he had not lived in the home for seven years or paid its taxes.

In Palm Beach County, adverse possession applications increased from 15 in 2011 to 21 in 2012.

"I hope that the judge looks at the situation and sees that it is a civil matter and that it needs to resolve in the courts," Friedman said. "The way we were treated by the police shouldn't have happened."

Earlier this year, the Florida Legislature passed a bill that would have reformed the state's adverse possession law.

A spokesperson for Governor Rick Scott said the bill had not reached his office.

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