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424.21 in U.S. Currency v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth

July 18, 2019

$2, 424.21 in U.S. Currency and 2013 Volkswagen Passat, Appellant
v.
The State of Texas, Appellee

          On Appeal from Criminal District Court No. 4 Tarrant County, Texas Trial Court No. S-13438-17

          Before Pittman, Bassel, and Womack, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Dana Womack Justice.

         I. Introduction

         In this civil forfeiture proceeding, Stanley Taplin appeals the forfeiture of cash of $2, 424.21 and a 2013 Volkswagen Passat. In one issue, Taplin contends that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion for continuance because he was not provided with forty-five days' notice of the first trial setting as required under Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 245. Tex.R.Civ.P. 245. We agree and reverse and remand for a new trial.

         II. Background

         On January 19, 2017, the State of Texas filed its "Notice of Seizure and Intended Forfeiture," wherein it sought forfeiture of $2, 424.21 and a 2013 Volkswagen Passat pursuant to Chapter 59 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. The "[p]otential owners, [l]ienholders [or] [o]thers [w]ith [i]nterest" of the property were identified as Stanley Taplin.

         On June 26, 2018, the State filed its "Motion to Set Hearing on the Merits."[1]By posting on August 3, 2018, [2] the trial court set the matter for an August 23, 2018 "hearing on the merits" in the magistrate's courtroom.[3] Thereafter, on August 16, 2018 and August 22, 2018, Taplin filed a verified motion for continuance of the matter. Both motions, which appear to be identical, state that Taplin is:

incarcerated in the Tarrant County Jail [and] ha[s] no knowledge of this hearing and this hearing is not in the court record of the Sheriff Dept. And I am the Pro Se Respondent, and I will be unable to appear unless you issue an order . . . . And I don't have funds to employ counsel. . . . I am wholly unfamiliar [with] criminal law and I have no training or experience but I would like to be present[, ] and it is a 4th amendment right of mine.

         In addition, Taplin notes that it is his first motion for continuance.

         At the August 23, 2018 trial, Taplin urged his motion for continuance. After the magistrate called the case for trial, the following transpired:

[STATE'S ATTORNEY]: Mr. Taplin filed a motion for continuance with the Court on August 16th and August 22nd.
[THE COURT]: Okay.
[STATE'S ATTORNEY]: Mr. Taplin, it's your motion.
[TAPLIN]: I had wrote the Court update, and they had told me they weren't going to bring me to court. And so that's why I filed the motion.
[THE COURT]: Okay.
[TAPLIN]: I wasn't in the court proceeding with the court records to come to court.
[THE COURT]: Okay. But you're here now, so what are you wanting to do? Are you still wanting a continuance, or are you - - you were just concerned you weren't going to be able to be here; is that what you're telling me?
[TAPLIN]: Yes, ma'am.
[THE COURT]: Okay. So are you withdrawing your motion?
[TAPLIN]: Well, I don't have my - - I don't have the documents that ...

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