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Appeals court upholds seizure, transfer of suspected drug money

May 21, 2012

A man who challenged the seizure of $25,000 in suspected drug money and its transfer to federal authorities lost his appeal, but the Indiana Court of Appeals was troubled by the state’s failure to provide him notice of the request for the transfer.

The appeals court Monday unanimously affirmed a Dearborn Circuit Court order transferring the money in Dante Adams v. State of Indiana, No. 15C01-1106-MI-29. Dante Adams appealed the order, contending that he was entitled to notice that the state was requesting the money be transferred for the beginning of forfeiture proceedings. Adams also questioned the lawfulness of a search.

The case originated with Adams’ arrest at the Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg on June 18, 2011. Adams attempted to exchange $20,000 in cash of various denominations, and he became argumentative with a teller.

Indiana Gaming Commission agents intervened and questioned Adams’ identity after he said he lived in Indianapolis but produced an Arizona identification. Agents determined that Adams was wanted on a Texas parole warrant, and he was arrested by Lawrenceburg police, who confiscated the $20,000.

Police subsequently searched Adams’ vehicle and found another $5,000, and a drug-sniffing dog indicated positive for narcotics during the vehicle search.

On June 28, 2011, authorities filed a motion to transfer the money to federal authorities to begin forfeiture proceedings. Adams argued that the transfer should not have happened because he wasn’t given notice of the request.

“Adams has confused our forfeiture statutes with the turnover statute,” Judge Edward W. Najam Jr. wrote. “We are not (yet) concerned with the forfeiture of the $25,000 and, therefore, Adams’ argument is misplaced. That said, we are also not persuaded by the State’s argument that Adams was not entitled to notice of its motion.”

Najam wrote that transfers of property may be challenged if a defendant contests the search as unlawful. “The state’s arguments on appeal that it was not required to give Adams notice of its motion to transfer are not well taken,” Najam wrote.

The appeals court said that for Adams to succeed on a claim of lack of notice, he would have to demonstrate prejudice as a result.

“Adams contends that he has been prejudiced by the transfer order because the underlying search had no ‘nexus between the cash and the … offense.’ We cannot agree,” Najam wrote.

“Here, there is no serious question that the facts underlying the search of Adams’ car and the seizure of his cash were supported by probable cause and were, therefore, lawful,” he wrote.



 

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