Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
Appeal from the 134th Judicial District Court Dallas County,
Texas Trial Court Cause No. DC-15-13525
Justices Lang, Brown, and Whitehill
Zapien (Wife) appeals from a judgment forfeiting as
contraband her 2007 Lexus that her husband (Husband) used to
illegally transport five kilograms (more than eleven pounds)
of methamphetamine. In a single issue, Wife argues that the
evidence is legally insufficient to support the forfeiture
because she established the innocent owner defense. We
disagree, and affirm the trial court's judgment.
was stopped while driving the vehicle, and the police found
five kilograms of methamphetamine in the trunk. He pled
guilty to a federal crime and was sentenced to ninety-seven
State seized the vehicle as contraband for forfeiture. Wife,
the vehicle's registered owner, asserted the innocent
trial court entered an interlocutory default judgment against
Husband forfeiting his interest in the vehicle. That default
judgment merged into the trial court's final judgment
discussed in the next paragraph. See Roccaforte v.
Jefferson Cty., 341 S.W.3d 919, 924 (Tex. 2011). Husband
is not a party to this appeal, and the forfeiture of his
interest is not an issue before us.
bench trial, the court concluded that the vehicle was
contraband subject to forfeiture because it was used in
committing a drug felony. The court further rejected the
innocent owner defense because: (i) Wife did not prove that
she didn't know and reasonably shouldn't have known
that Husband was using the vehicle in the commission of a
drug felony and (ii) appellant's husband was an equitable
owner of the vehicle.
sole issue does not contest whether the State provided
sufficient evidence supporting the elements of its claim. Nor
does she contend that whether Husband was an equitable owner
is relevant. She instead argues only that she established her
innocent owner defense as a matter of law.
Standard of Review and Applicable Law
forfeiture proceeding under the code of criminal procedure is
a civil proceeding. Tex. Code Crim. Proc art. 59.05(a), (b);
see Five Hundred & Eighty Five Dollars in U.S.
Currency v. State, No. 03-09-00012-CV, 2009 WL 2837716,
at *1 (Tex. App.-Austin Aug. 31, 2009, no pet.) (mem. op.).
To prevail in a forfeiture proceeding, the state must prove
by a preponderance of the evidence that the property is
contraband and, thus, subject to forfeiture to the state.
Forty Three Thousand Seven Hundred & Seventy Four
Dollars in U.S. Currency v. State, 266 S.W.3d 178, 182
(Tex. App.-Texarkana 2008, pet. denied).
is property of any nature used in the commission of certain
felonies. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art.
59.01(2)(A)-(E). Article 59.01 also defines "owner"
as "a person who claims an equitable or legal ownership
interest in the property" and defines "interest
holder" as "the bona fine holder of a perfected
lien or perfected ...