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400.00) United States Currency v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

June 26, 2019

THIRTY-EIGHT THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS ($38, 400.00) UNITED STATES CURRENCY, Appellant
v.
The STATE of Texas, Appellee

          From the 408th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2016-CI-00346 Honorable Antonia Arteaga, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice Irene Rios, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice

         Wesley Jacob Sosa appeals a summary judgment the trial court rendered in favor of the State in a civil forfeiture case. As the movant, the State was required to do more than raise a fact issue supporting its case; the State had the burden to conclusively establish all facts demonstrating its entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Because the State failed to satisfy this burden, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         Background

         The underlying suit is a civil forfeiture proceeding. The State filed suit, alleging $38, 400 in cash, seized by law enforcement officers from Sosa, was contraband subject to forfeiture. The State alleged Sosa had gained the proceeds from the commission of a felony, specifically the "delivery, manufacturing, and/or possession of methamphetamine and marijuana, a controlled substance" (formatting omitted).

         After Sosa filed an answer, the State filed a motion for summary judgment and argued, "There is no genuine issue as to any material fact regarding each and every element of the Plaintiff's cause of action, and Plaintiff is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Sosa did not file a response. The evidence the State attached to its motion included a police report describing the events leading up to the seizure of the money, as well as Sosa's discovery responses and a judgment of conviction for possession of methamphetamine, which was entered upon Sosa's plea of guilt and which suspended the imposition of his sentence.

         According to the police report, Sosa and two women were at a motel, where the police had responded to a disturbance. An officer conducted a protective sweep of Sosa's hotel room and "located approximately 6.1 grams of alleged methamphetamine in two baggies and a large amount of money in [Sosa's] jacket pocket, another large amount of money was found in a black computer bag[, ] a total of $38, 400 was found, 2 baggies of alleged marijuana to total approximately 5.5 grams [were] found in the computer bag and on the bath room counter top."

         According to his discovery responses, which the State attached to its summary judgment motion, Sosa found the money on the roadside. He explained in a response to an interrogatory:

On December 8, 2015, as I was walking on the side of 181 South, toward my friend Billy's old trailer, by Foster Rd., I came upon a black computer bag, which contained canned food, radio controlled car stuff, and a blue Wal-Mart bag that contained about $44, 000. This occurred about 3:30 a.m.

         Sosa denied that the cash was drug money and that he ever sold drugs. The State also attached a letter from Sosa explaining the methamphetamine belonged to one of the women he was with at the motel, and the money he found was "all brand new money, one hundred dollar bank notes in $5, 000 bank bands."

         The trial court set the case for a bench trial on March 29, 2018. On that date, the trial court signed an order granting the State's motion for summary judgment and rendered summary judgment in favor of the State. Sosa timely filed a notice of appeal.

         Standard of Review & Applicable Law

         Civil forfeiture proceedings are civil in nature, and the rules of civil procedure apply. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 59.5(a), (b); $9, 050.00 in U.S. Currency v. State, 874 S.W.2d 158, 161 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1994, writ denied). The State filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law because its evidence established there is "no genuine issue as to any material fact regarding each and every element of [its] cause of action." As such, the State's motion was a traditional motion for summary judgment under Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 166a. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 166a(a), (c) ...


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