COA reversal of truck forfeiture allows movie fan to drive off into the sunset

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In a reversal of a trial court’s ruling, the Indiana Court of Appeals held that a man who pleaded guilty to selling pirated movies should not have had his truck taken by the state because violating copyright is not the same as stealing goods.

Michael Curtis contended the trial court abused its discretion by denying his Indiana Trial Rule 60(B) motion for relief from judgment following the forfeiture of his truck. The COA reversed and remanded with instructions after finding Curtis had “established extraordinary circumstances” justifying relief in Michael L. Curtis v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1203-MI-271. 

In December 2009, the state charged Michael Curtis with four counts of Class D felony fraud for selling pirated movies from his truck. It later filed a compliant for forfeiture of Curtis’ truck under I.C. 34-24-1-1(a)(1)(B) (2009) which allows the seizure of vehicles if they are used to transport any stolen property worth $100 or more.

Curtis pleaded guilty in February 2011 to one count of fraud.

The state then filed a motion of summary judgment in the forfeiture action. The trial court granted the state’s motion and ordered the truck taken.

Subsequently, Curtis filed a Motion for Relief from Judgment Pursuant to Trial Rule 60(B)(1), (3), or (8). In the motion, Curtis again stated his attorney did not notify him of the forfeiture order. He also challenged the forfeiture on the grounds that the pirated movies did not constitute stolen property, specifically citing  Dowling v. United States, 473 U.S. 207, 105 S. Ct. 3127, 87 L Ed. 2d 152 (1985).

The trial court denied the motion without a hearing. Curtis appealed, contending the trial court abused its discretion by denying his motion for relief from judgment.

The COA agreed with Curtis. It found, as Dowling held, that the property rights of a copyright holder are different than the same rights of an owner of goods, wares or merchandise. It also pointed to I.C. 34-24-1-1(a)(1)(B) which, the court held, clearly allows forfeiture in cases of theft or conversion but says nothing about copyright infringement or even fraud.

Since the forfeiture of the truck was not authorized by the statute, the COA concluded that Curtis had established extraordinary circumstances justifying relief.



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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues