COA affirms $17K forfeiture from man in mobile shootout case

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A panel of appellate judges has affirmed the forfeiture of roughly $17,000 in cash seized from a man after his involvement in a mobile shootout in Indianapolis. The panel concluded there was a nexus between the money and qualifying criminal activity.

After being involved in a shootout with another vehicle on 38th Street in Indianapolis, Edward Weaver turned abruptly onto Sherman Drive and eventually stopped his truck when law enforcement pursued. Once there, officers found a white, powdery substance on the backseat of Weaver’s truck and discovered that Weaver had approximately $14,000 in cash on him. Officers also observed two or three handguns in the truck, but no records indicating that any of the vehicle’s three occupants had a license to carry them.

A search of the truck then revealed 60 unoriginally packaged buprenorphine pills, 27 Suboxone strips, and numerous Xanax pills, as well as an additional $3,000 in cash. It was unusual, the officers noted, for a drug user to have three different types of narcotics. Circling back to where gunshots had been initially heard, officers discovered a brick-sized package of white, chunky powder that appeared to be cocaine. However, testing revealed the substance was not cocaine, which would have had a street value of $17,000.

A complaint filed by the state against Weaver sought forfeiture of the $17,084 in currency that had been seized from him, alleging it was furnished or intended to be furnished illegally. The forfeiture of the money was warranted even in the absence of any actual cocaine, the state contested, because the sale of a material represented to be a controlled substance is also a crime supporting forfeiture.

The trial court subsequently denied Weaver’s motion for summary judgment and granted the state’s request to seize the cash. He appealed in $17,084.00 in United States Currency and Edward Weaver v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.), 19A-MI-1710, alleging that the state had not proven any nexus between the money and qualifying criminal activity. The Indiana Court of Appeals disagreed.

“While the apparent cocaine was ultimately shown to not be genuine, a reasonable inference is that Weaver either sold (or attempted to sell) or bought (or attempted to buy) a white powder meant to be taken as packaged cocaine,” Chief Judge Cale Bradford wrote in a memorandum decision. “Any of these scenarios amounts to a crime supporting forfeiture. Put another way, even though the package was found to not contain any cocaine, that does not eliminate the possibility of the money being related to an offense such that forfeiture is supportable.”

The appellate court additionally found the state did not fail to produce evidence connecting the $17,084 to any illegal activity that would support forfeiture. Based on the circumstances of the case, the appellate court concluded that the evidence collectively led to an inference that Weaver was involved in drug dealing, generally.

It also found “more than enough to infer that Weaver either sold or attempted to sell a substance he represented to be cocaine, or attempted to buy a substance represented to be cocaine” and that the $17,084 was either money transferred or set to be transferred in “the drug deal gone bad.”

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