Plaintiff in federal civil forfeiture case loses appeal

A Marion County defendant whose federal lawsuit caused a district court judge to throw out parts of Indiana’s civil forfeiture statute as unconstitutional has lost his appeal of his underlying conviction in state court.

In a memorandum decision handed down in Leroy Washington v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1707-CR-1665, the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld Leroy Washington’s conviction for Level 6 felony dealing in marijuana. Washington was arrested after leading Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers on a short chase that ended with Washington being found in possession of more than 46 grams of marijuana.

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld Washington’s convictions as supported by sufficient evidence on Tuesday, but Washington scored a victory in August in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, where he filed suit challenging the seizure of his vehicle following his arrest.

Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson awarded summary judgment to Washington after determining Indiana’s civil forfeiture statute, Indiana Code section 34-24-1-1(a)(1), is unconstitutional when read in conjunction with statutory provisions of the same chapter. That’s because the statutory scheme violated the due process rights of Washington and other civil forfeiture defendants by denying them a “post-seizure, pre-forfeiture hearing.”

Magnus-Stinson entered a permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants in the federal case – which included Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and IMPD Chief Bryan Roach – from enforcing that statute as read in conjunction with other provisions of the same chapter. That decision is already affecting trial court proceedings, such as those in Marion County, where a superior court judge recently ordered the return of seized property based on the chief judge’s ruling.

The federal case is Leroy Washington v. Marion County Prosecutor, et al., 1:2016cv02980 (S.D. Ind. 2017).

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