Enforcement Guidelines

Enforcement Guidelines

FLORIDA LAW ENFORCEMENT PROPERTY RECOVERY UNIT

539 ENFORCEMENT GUIDELINES

The Florida State Statute 539 covers Pawn broking. Like most statutes it has room for interpretation. FLEPRU, the Pawn Broker Association, or even Attorneys can do nothing but give opinions on the interpretations. Only a Judicial decision can verify the true intent of the law on this or any other statute.

FLEPRU felt a need for some type of standardization for law enforcement officers when it came to the enforcement of 539 so we have developed the following guidelines. Let us stress that even though we have sought the input of the Florida Department of Agriculture, members of the Florida Pawn Brokers Association, and our members, this is only an interpretation and a guideline. What follows is not the only interpretation available and should be used as guidelines only. The final say as far as the determination of violations of 539 in your jurisdiction is ultimately the decisions of your agency and your Prosecutor until a judicial body makes an interpretation. It is suggested that these guidelines be discussed fully before any enforcement is implemented.

PAWNBROKER TRANSACTION FORM

The pawn transaction form used by the pawnshop must be approved by the Department of Agriculture.

539.001(8)a- states specifically what has to be on the front of the pawn transaction form. The following are some of the major points of that section.

The last sentence of paragraph (a) of that section states; “In completing the pawnbroker transaction form, the Pawnbroker shall record the following information, which must be typed or written indelibly and legibly in English.”

The paragraph states, “shall record.” Which means that the information that 539 states must be included on the front of the form cannot be left blank. If, for example, the seller or the pledger is unemployed it should be stated so. Unemployed, none, or any other answer to indicate unemployment should be accepted.

To further back this interpretation 539.001(12) titled PROHIBITED ACTS states:

“A Pawnbroker, or an employee or agent of a pawnbroker, may not:

(a) Falsify or intentionally fail to make an entry of any material matter in a pawnbroker form.”

The following must be on the front of the form:

  • The name and address of the pawnshop. This can be written or preprinted on the form. Many times Pawnshops change names or owners. There is no place in 539 that states that the old name cannot be blocked out and the new name written or printed in.
  • A complete and accurate description of the pledged goods, including the following information, if applicable: Scrap gold does not fit these criteria. If it is a broken gold necklace, then it should say, “broken gold necklace” remember Complete and accurate description
  • Brand name. The name of the manufacture goes here if it can not be located it should state so or just simply “none”
  • Model number. The model number should be placed here. If one cannot be located, then it should so indicate. (Please remember that there are many times other numbers are present on certain items. If a Model number is not present and another number is listed in this section it would not necessarily be a violation of 539.)
  • Manufacture’s serial number. The serial number should go here. If not found then it should so indicate. (Please remember that there are many times other numbers are present on certain items. If a serial number is not present and another number is listed in this section it would not necessarily be a violation of 539.) Remember possession of property with removed or altered serial numbers are illegal, (see Florida Statute 812.016).
  • Size. This area is for the length, diameter, height, gauge, or any other type of size reference
  • Color, as apparent to the untrained eye. Color as it is apparent. If it says blue and it is red that is a violation but be lenient on this. What is blue to one person may be purple to another. Use realistic discretion.
  • Precious metal type, weight, and content, if known.
  • Gemstone description, including the number of stones. In the case of jewelry, just having the descriptive boxes checked is not enough. The transaction form must also have a complete and accurate description.In case of firearms, the type of action, caliber or gauge, number of barrels, barrel length, and finish
  • Any other unique identifying marks, numbers, names or letters. The ticket should give any other number such as lot number, owner applied number or any other mark or marks intentionally placed on it that would help to identify this property from any other like it.

Most pawn transaction forms have specific spots for the above items but as long as it is included in the description portion it is not a violation. The information must be somewhere on the FRONT of the ticket. Statute 539 is not specific as to where additional information is to be included. Additional information may be on the front or back of the form.

If a number of similar items are pawned or sold at the same time and they do not have serial or model numbers and are not precious metals or gemstones, the description of the items is adequate if it contains the quantity of the items and the description of the type of items. An example of this is musical or video recordings, books, and hand tools. It can say for example, “12 music CDs”

The pawn transaction form must include the following personal information on the person pawning or selling the item:

  • Name, address, home telephone number, place of employment, date of birth, physical description, and right thumbprint. In the past “self” has not been deemed a complete enough answer for “Place of Employment”. The Department of Agriculture has stated that this is sufficient and should not be considered a violation.
  • Date and time of the transaction
  • The type of identification accepted from the pledger or seller, including issuing agency and the identification number which must be a photo, government issued identification

The Pawn Transaction form has to be signed by the pledgor or seller

The Transaction form must have some indication of what employee completed this transaction. There have been times that Pawnbrokers were training others and used their initials on the ticket. Just remember the one that is indicated is the one responsible.

Typos are NOT a criminal violation. Typos should be reported to the Department of Agriculture if it appears to be a continuous problem.

A Pawnbroker has 24 hours to produce a ticket once requested if the shop electronically downloads or transfers.

It is recommended that on the first offense a warning be issued for the violation. After that time it should be the Officer’s discretion. It is also the Officers discretion to send each and every violation to the Department of Agriculture for their records and investigation. A copy of the pawn transaction form that the violation occurred on should be attached and sent with the warning or citation. A copy should be kept for your records also.

Florida State Statute (FSS) Chapter 539 regulates the regulation of Pawnbrokers within the State of Florida. FSS 539 gives a law enforcement officer the authority to inspect a pawnbroker/pawnshop within their jurisdiction during the hours of operation of the pawnshop.

The Florida Law Enforcement Property Recovery Unit suggests that when an inspection takes place the following procedures should be followed:

  1. The inspecting law enforcement official(s) should be dressed in civilian attire, as a pawnshop is a business and should be treated as such. An inspection should take place with as little disruption to the pawnshop as possible. Uniform officers may tend to make possible customers think there is a problem within the pawnshop, thus shopping elsewhere.
  2. Officers should keep in mind that many pawnshops operate with few employees. Therefore prior notice of inspection is an option that officer(s) should consider. By giving prior notice the pawnshop would have the option of having additional employees present in order to ensure that the inspection did not interfere with the day-to-day operations of the pawnshop and also help the inspection run smoother.
  3. And inspection is an inspection of records and property present at the pawnshop. Once an inspection becomes a criminal investigation the investigating officer should contact their States Attorney’s Office to ascertain if the inspection should stop and a Search Warrant obtained.
  4. All inspections should be within the guidelines of individual law enforcement agency Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).
  5. Repeated violations should be reported to the Department of Consumer Services.

 

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