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People v. Ten Thousand One Hundred Fifty Three Dollars and Thirty Eight Cents in U.S. Currency

May 29, 2009

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
TEN THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED FIFTY THREE DOLLARS AND THIRTY EIGHT CENTS ($10,153.38) IN U.S. CURRENCY, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Craig E. Veals, Judge. Reversed and remanded. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BA242217).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Klein, P. J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Cyrus Cardan appeals the judgment entered in favor of the People in connection with forfeiture proceedings under Health and Safety Code section 11470 et seq. related to $10,153.38 seized by the Los Angeles Police Department at the time of Cardan's arrest for possession for sale of cocaine base and marijuana in violation of Health and Safety Code sections 11351.5 and 11359.*fn1

We conclude the People's failure to bring the forfeiture matter to trial in connection with the criminal proceedings, as was their burden, precludes entry of judgment in their favor. Consequently, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

BACKGROUND

1. Facts and Procedure

On January 21, 2003, City of Los Angeles police officers arrested Cardan in the hotel room where he resided and charged him with possession for sale of cocaine base and marijuana. (§§ 11351.5, 11359.) The officers seized 150 grams of cocaine base, 400 grams of marijuana and $10,153.38.

On March 3, 2003, while Cardan was in custody awaiting trial, the People served Cardan notice of the right to oppose forfeiture proceedings and a blank claim opposing forfeiture of the seized funds. (See § 11488.4, subd. (c).) Cardan completed the claim and returned it. As a result, the People were unable to process the forfeiture proceedings as an administrative matter. (See § 11488.4, subd. (j) [permitting administrative forfeiture of amounts less than $25,000 unless a claim opposing forfeiture is filed].)

On March 11, 2003, the People filed a petition of forfeiture, which alleged the funds were the proceeds of narcotics trafficking within the meaning of section 11470, subdivision (f).

Cardan's criminal case went to jury trial in September of 2003. The People's evidence adduced at trial indicated Cardan sold narcotics from his hotel room. Cardan's defense was that he sold candy, cigarettes and soda from his hotel room and the money seized by the police was the proceeds of those sales, not drug sales. Cardan was convicted as charged and was sentenced to prison on December 4, 2003. This court affirmed Cardan's conviction. (People v. Cardan (Feb. 28, 2005, B171861 [nonpub. opn.].)*fn2

The matter remained dormant until May 17, 2006, when the People served requests for admission (RFAs) on Cardan. These RFAs asked Cardan to admit he had abandoned the claim opposing forfeiture of the funds and that this abandonment constituted a waiver of any interest in the funds.

Cardan responded within 30 days but did not respond as contemplated by Code of Civil Procedure section 2033.210 et seq. Instead, on June 7, 2006, Cardan filed a "Petition for Return of Property." Cardan's Petition alleged the $10,153.38 was seized based on a search warrant issued on false statements. The Petition also asserted a portion of the seized funds was a coin collection. The Petition noted the forfeiture issue was not tried with Cardan's criminal case and also asserted the one-year statute of limitations for filing a petition of forfeiture had expired. Cardan served the petition on the deputy district attorney who propounded the RFAs, along with a letter dated June 1, 2006, which made a separate request for return of the property plus interest.

2. The RFAs are Deemed Admitted and Summary Judgment is Granted in Favor of the People

The People filed a motion for an order deeming the RFAs admitted based on Cardan's failure to respond as contemplated by Code of Civil ...


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