Supreme Court rules notice inadequate in forfeiting suspected drug dealer’s cash
The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled prosecutors must do more than knock on someone’s door to serve notice they’re forfeiting his property.
The case involves $543 in cash confiscated by Metropolitan Police in Las Vegas when they searched a suspected drug dealer’s home in February 2000.
Later, prosecutors began a forfeiture action to permanently claim the money, arguing it was the proceeds from drug dealing. They had an investigator knock on Maiola’s door and leave notices there three times without a response.
The court then allowed prosecutors to publish notice of forfeiture in the Nevada Legal News and claimed the money for the county.
In the meantime, Maiola won a court order suppressing the evidence as the result of an unlawful search and asked for his money back. The district court said it was too late and refused so Maiola went to the Supreme Court.
While prosecutors say they did what they were required to in trying to contact Maiola about the forfeiture hearing, his lawyers disagreed.
They argued that while prosecutors were telling the judge they couldn’t reach him, Maiola, his lawyer and a deputy district attorney were all in court at a preliminary hearing on the criminal charges.
The high court agreed pointing out that Nevada law provides for the return of property taken in an unlawful search. The panel consisting of Chief Justice Miriam Shearing, Nancy Becker and Mark Gibbons said federal court rulings have said that when notice of forfeiture is inadequate, “then the forfeiture proceeding was never available.”
They agreed with a federal ruling which said that, “where other reasonable methods exist for locating the whereabouts of a defendant, plaintiff should exercise those methods.”
They ordered the forfeiture issue back to the district court.
Contact Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 687-8750.