COA remands for reexamination of criminal cash forfeiture

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The Court of Appeals of Indiana has ordered a trial court to reexamine a criminal forfeiture after granting the defendant’s motion for relief from the forfeiture, then granting the state’s motion reinstating it.

In 2017, the Noble County Sheriff’s Office suspected Tyson Eminger of being a supplier of methamphetamine out of his home in Kendallville. With a search warrant, officers entered Eminger’s residence and seized meth, paraphernalia and $4,260.

Eminger was then charged with Level 2 felony dealing in meth, Level 4 and 6 felony counts of possession of meth, Level 6 felony possession of a syringe and Level 6 felony maintaining a common nuisance.

The state moved to transfer the money seized from Eminger’s home to the U.S. Department of Justice but did not notify Eminger of the motion. The Noble Superior Court granted the state’s motion.

In 2018, Eminger pleaded guilty to Level 6 felony possession of meth and in exchange the state dismissed the other charges.

Less than a year later, he filed a motion for relief from the court’s transfer order, alleging the order violated Indiana Code Chapter 34-24-1. In response, the state moved to dismiss Eminger’s Trial Rule 60(B) motion because the state no longer had jurisdiction over the currency, and also on the theory that Eminger was not entitled to a notice.

The trial court granted Eminger’s motion because he had not been served proper notice and because procedural requirements of Indiana Code Chapter 34-24-1 had not been followed.

The state later filed a motion for relief from the judgment under Indiana Trial Rule 60(B)(8), which the trial court granted, vacating its prior order.

On appeal, Eminger brought one issue to the COA: whether the trial court abused its discretion when it granted the state’s motion, which was filed after the court had granted Eminger’s Rule 60(B) motion.

Reversing the trial court, the Court of Appeals held, “Eminger was entitled to challenge the State’s motion to transfer, but the State failed to serve that motion on Eminger, and the trial court erroneously granted the State’s transfer motion without permitting Eminger to challenge it.

“We conclude that the proper remedy on Eminger’s motion for relief from that judgment is to afford Eminger a hearing at which he may challenge the lawfulness of the State’s seizure of the currency,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote.

The case now goes back to the trial court on remand. If the court determines the state’s seizure of the currency was unlawful, the state must reimburse Eminger and can try to recoup the money from the federal government.

The case is Tyson Eminger v. State of Indiana, 22A-CR-1077.

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