Appellants Saskia Anthony, Gregory Glass, and Vance Edwards were the title owners, respectively, to a black 2001 Mercedes Benz S600, a white 2000 Jaguar S-Type, and a blue 1996 Chevy Impala SS. In May of 2005, the vehicles were in the possession of Levin White and his wife when Chandler police executed a search warrant and found hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, drugs, and guns. The State filed a notice that it intended to seek forfeiture of the vehicles. Mr. White and his wife filed a claim and attached an affidavit by the Appellants claiming that they owned the vehicles and that they had not been purchased with funds derived from illegal activity. The State filed a complaint seeking forfeiture of the vehicles on July 19, naming both the criminal defendants and the Appellants, and mailed the complaint to Appellants’ counsel, noting that the Appellants had until October 29 to file an answer. The criminal defendants filed an unverified answer on October 9, and the Appellants filed a verified answer on November 8, claiming that they owned title to the vehicles but permitted the criminal defendants to drive them. After extensive litigation, the superior court ruled that the ownership arrangement was a “sham” and ordered the vehicles forfeited.
Upon a close reading of the procedural aspects of the forfeiture statute, Division One held that the Appellants’ answer was untimely and that they therefore had not preserved any claim to the vehicles. It held that language in the forfeiture statute requiring the state to proceed with an application with ten days’ notice does not provide a grace period for answering the complaint and that Appellants’ original affidavits were not the functional equivalent of answers. Thus, Appellants’ answer was untimely. It further held that the superior court had properly determined that there was probable cause that the vehicles were subject to forfeiture based upon vehicle repairs that had been paid for by the criminal defendants. It thereby affirmed the superior court’s forfeiture ruling.
Judge Kessler authored the majority opinion; Judges Gemmil and Thompson concurred.
Posted by: Andrew Case