September 6, 2011

Colorado Court of Appeals forfeiture decision from 8-18-11 People v. $ 11,200.00 U.S. Currency


People v. $ 11,200.00 U.S. Currency            Forfeiture
Facts: The police searched Mr. Strand’s home, seized drugs, and the $11,200.00. At a subsequent trial on drug charges, a jury convicted Mr. Strand, but the Court of Appeals reversed. There, the Court of Appeals held that the police violated Mr. Strand’s rights under the Fourth Amendment when they seized the money and drugs from his home (of course, no cajones dictates that the opinion went unpublished). Subsequently, the prosecution filed a motion to dismiss the criminal case. Parallel to the criminal case, the prosecution sought forfeiture of the $11,200.00. The trial court granted the motion, forfeited the money, and the state claims then to have spent the money. The trial court based its forfeiture ruling in part on Mr. Strand’s conviction in the underlying criminal case. However, after the reversal and dismissal of his case, Mr. Strand sought the $11,200.00 back from the government. The trial court granted Mr. Strand’s motion, and the state appealed.
Issue: Whether, under C.R.C.P. Rule 60, the trial court had the authority to reverse a forfeiture order?
Held: Yes.
Reasoning: The Court of Appeals looked Rule 60(4) of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure, which states: “the judgment has been satisfied, released, or discharged, or a prior judgment upon which it is based has been reversed or otherwise vacated, or it is no longer equitable that the judgment should have prospective application…” Specifically, the Court of Appeals found because the trial court based its ruling in part on the conviction, subsequent reversal of that conviction requires the state return the money. Further, the Court of Appeals followed One 1958 Plymouth Sedan v. Pennsylvania, 380 U.S. 693, 702 (1965); and United States v. One Hundred Forty–Nine Thousand Four Hundred Forty–Two & 43/100 Dollars ($149,442.43), 965 F.2d 868, 872 (10th Cir.1992) to hold that the exclusionary rule applies to forfeiture proceedings.
            Other specious arguments by the Attorney General and the government that the Court of Appeals rejected: that because they already spent the money, the state should not be required to return the money; that Mr. Strand did not say he wanted the money back after the trial court granted the forfeiture motion; that Mr. Strand waited an unreasonably long time (3 months) to file his motion to return the money.

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