COA: Don’t include sales tax in forfeiture calculation

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The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that a trial court erred in adding sales tax to the value of goods stolen, which allowed the state to seize the car used by the thief.

Byron Chan stole $97 worth of merchandise from an Indianapolis Menards store. The state filed a complaint seeking forfeiture of the car used by Chan to commit the crime. The sales tax of $7 was added into the complaint, pushing the total over the $100 threshold required to be able to forfeit a vehicle under Indiana Code 34-24-1-1(a)(1)(B).

That statute says a vehicle may be forfeited if it’s used or intended to be used … “if the retail purchase value of that property is $100 or more.” The code doesn’t give a detailed definition of “retail or repurchase value,” but the judges decided it does not include sales tax.

“Both Chan and the State have advanced entirely respectable interpretations of the forfeiture statute. One says ‘retail value’ is the price of the goods without tax, and the other says most people think of value as how much they had to pay when they purchased the goods,” wrote Senior Judge Randall T. Shepard in Byron Chan v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1110-MI-1024.

The judges concluded that “retail or repurchase value” should be read as meaning the price of the goods without the addition of the sales tax due on the transaction.



  • Agreed
    As the Court states, "forfeitures are disfavored", but in practice it is so easy for the state to accomplish them. The defendant is obviously more preoccupied with the criminal case and does not have the resources to defend the civil one.
  • Forfeiture Is A Racket
    The concept of civil asset forfeiture is nothing more than legalized theft. Any forfeiture of an individual's property should take place under the criminal case rather than a civil case, and the individual should be convicted of a crime before his or her property can be forfeited. Under current law, your car, house, retirement and savings accounts, and any other property can be seized under Indiana's civil asset forfeiture laws, and you don't even have to be arrested, charged with, or convicted of any crime. If the county prosecuting attorney and local or state police want your property, they can just take it under these laws, and their buddies on the bench will go along with what they want, since all branches of government probably get a cut of the proceeds. If you try to get records in Hendricks County of what property has been seized and forfeited from individuals and where the proceeds went, you get asked to leave the government offices and get threatened with arrest by sheriff's department and prosecutor's office officials, even though these are supposed to be public records.

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    1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

    2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

    3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

    4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

    5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.