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One 2007 Lexus Is 250 And Marisa Zapien v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

January 8, 2018

ONE 2007 LEXUS IS 250 AND MARISA ZAPIEN, Appellant
v.
THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee

         On Appeal from the 134th Judicial District Court Dallas County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. DC-15-13525

          Before Justices Lang, Brown, and Whitehill

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Whitehill Justice

         Appellant 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.

         I. Factual Background

         Husband 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 months imprisonment.

         The State seized the vehicle as contraband for forfeiture. Wife, the vehicle's registered owner, asserted the innocent owner defense.

         The 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.

         After a 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.

         II. Analysis

         Wife's 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.

         A. Standard of Review and Applicable Law

         A 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).

         "Contraband" 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 ...


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