Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Fifty-One Thousand One Hundred and Twenty-Four Dollars v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

April 24, 2019

FIFTY-ONE THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FOUR DOLLARS in U.S. Currency, et al., Appellant
v.
The STATE of Texas, Appellee

          From the 229th Judicial District Court, Starr County, Texas Trial Court No. DC-17-658-A Honorable Jose Luis Garza, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice Irene Rios, Justice Beth Watkins, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice.

         This is an appeal from a severed, partial summary judgment in favor of the State of Texas based on deemed admissions. Appellant Graciano Garcia asserts the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the forfeiture petition was not timely filed and the State failed to name Maria Soza-Lopez ("Soza") as an interest holder or serve her with process within the thirty-day statute of limitations. Garcia also contends the trial court erred by granting a partial summary judgment based on deemed admissions. We reverse the trial court's judgment and remand the cause for a new trial.

         Background

         On November 3, 2017, investigators from the Starr County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force and U.S. Border Patrol agents arrived at the home of Garcia and his wife Soza based on a tip that narcotics were being stored at the home and in a vacant lot adjacent to the home. Garcia gave the investigators consent to search his home and gave them keys to a travel trailer that was located on the property. After the investigators found an eleven-pound brick of marijuana in the travel trailer, Garcia withdrew his consent to the search because he was told Soza was also going to be detained. After Garcia withdrew his consent, the property was secured while a valid search warrant was obtained. As a result of the search, the investigators seized: (1) $51, 124 of U.S. currency located in the home; (2) a 2010 beige Cadillac SRX; (3) a 2005 Ford F-150 truck; and (4) a 2006 Cherokee Travel Trailer. During the investigation, Soza stated the currency did not belong to her, and she did not know it was in the residence.

         On November 21, 2017, the State filed its original notice of seizure and intended forfeiture of the assets listed above and named: Garcia as the owner of the currency and the Cadillac SRX; Alejandro Rodriguez as the owner of the F-150; and Jose Lopez as the owner of the travel trailer. These were the only individuals named as claimants of the assets in the original notice of seizure. The notice alleged that the date of seizure was September 21, 2017, however, the investigator's affidavit attached to the notice attested to the actual seizure date of November 3, 2017. Garcia filed an answer claiming he was an innocent owner of the alleged contraband. Neither of the other claimants filed an answer.

         On December 21, 2017, the State sent Garcia a request for admissions. Garcia did not respond. On January 26, 2018, the State filed a motion for partial summary judgment based on deemed admissions. The summary judgment hearing was scheduled for March 3, 2018, and Garcia filed a motion to strike the deemed admissions on February 28, 2018. Garcia claimed he was not able to respond to the request for admissions because a discrepancy with his work calendar caused a scheduling conflict and he was not able to return to Starr County in time to answer the admissions. The trial court denied the motion to strike deemed admissions and granted partial summary judgment in favor of the State as to the $51, 124 of U.S. currency, only. Subsequently, the trial court granted the State's motion to sever the forfeiture of the $51, 124 into a separate cause making the summary judgment final as to that asset. Garcia appeals.

         Necessary Parties

         In his first issue, Garcia argues that the forfeiture proceeding should be dismissed because Soza and Jose Infante, another individual who was in possession of the F-150 truck during the search, were not made parties to the original suit. Because the trial court's summary judgment relates only to the $51, 124 in U.S. currency, Infante's claims are not at issue in this appeal.

         Garcia claims Soza is an interest holder in the currency and, because the State did not perfect service of process on Soza, the forfeiture proceeding is barred by article 59.04's thirty-day limitation period. Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. § 59.04 (requiring the State's attorney to send certified copies of the notice of seizure and intended forfeiture to be served on any owner and possessory interest holder of the seized assets within thirty days of the seizure). Article 59.04(1) states: "Proceedings commenced under this chapter may not proceed to hearing unless the judge who is to conduct the hearing is satisfied that this article has been complied with . . . ." Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. § 59.04(1).

         The State argues it caused certified copies of the notice to be served on the only owner and interest holder in the currency when it perfected service on Garcia. In support of this argument, the State points to the seizing officers' affidavit attesting that Soza disclaimed any possessory interest in the currency.[1] Garcia responds by pointing to an affidavit Soza filed with the court after the summary judgment hearing and the order granting severance in which she attests that she did not make any representations to the State that she did not care about the seized currency. However, this affidavit does not contend that Soza had any possessory interest in the currency, and the affidavit was not before the trial court at the summary judgment hearing. See Cincinnati Life Ins. Co. v. Cates, 927 S.W.2d 623, 625 (Tex. 1996) (an appellate court may only review issues that were raised before the trial court on summary judgment). Therefore, we hold the trial court did not err in proceeding with the hearing because, based on the seizing officers' affidavit, the trial court was satisfied that all owners and possessory interest holders had been timely served with process within the thirty-day time frame. Garcia's first issue is overruled.

         Date of Seizure

         In his third issue, Garcia contends the State lacked subject matter jurisdiction based on the date of seizure alleged in the notice of seizure and intended forfeiture. However, the seizing officers' affidavit attached to the original notice of seizure and intended forfeiture attested that the seizure occurred on November 3, 2017, and Garcia concedes in his brief that the seizure occured on November 3, 2017. Therefore, we must determine whether the mistaken date in the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.