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State v. Jacob L.

Supreme Court of Maine

June 6, 2017

STATE OF MAINE
v.
JACOB L.

          Argued: April 13, 2017

          Benjamin Fowler, Esq. (orally), Bangor, for appellant Jacob L.

          R. Christopher Almy, District Attorney, Tracy Collins, Asst. Dist. Atty., and Mark A. Rucci, Asst. Dist. Atty. (orally), Prosecutorial District V, Bangor, for appellee State of Maine

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          HJELM, J.

         [¶1] Jacob L. appeals from an order denying his motion for return of property, see M.R.U. Crim. P. 41 (j), [1] entered after a hearing in the Juvenile Court[2] (Bangor, Lucy, J.), following entry of a judgment adjudicating him of the juvenile crime of aggravated assault (Class B), 17-A M.R.S. § 2O8(1)(B) (2016); see also 15 M.R.S. § 3103(1) (2016) (defining "juvenile crime"). Jacob argues that the court applied an incorrect legal standard when it determined that the State was entitled to retain possession of cash that had been seized from him as evidence against a co-defendant, and that the court's findings were not supported by sufficient evidence. Because the court has not yet issued an order determining who owns or is otherwise entitled to possession of the cash, we dismiss this appeal as interlocutory.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The central facts are undisputed, either as established in the record or as the parties have framed their arguments.

         [¶3] In the early morning hours of March 25, 2016, a Bangor police officer responded to the scene of a reported robbery and assault. The victim told the officer that two males had beaten him with a two-by-four and had taken about $800 in cash from his pocket, along with some other items.

         [¶4] Based on physical descriptions provided by the victim and his girlfriend, other officers detained two suspects, including Jacob, at a nearby convenience store. The girlfriend identified the suspects as the attackers, and the officers then arrested Jacob on several outstanding warrants. They also arrested the other suspect. One of the arresting officers searched Jacob for weapons and found a large roll of money in his pocket. At the police station the officer counted the money and found that there was $1, 310, which was retained as evidence. The victim later told the police that the amount of stolen cash totaled $1, 300 rather than the $800 he had reported initially.

         [¶5] On March 31, 2016, Jacob was charged by petition with the juvenile crimes of robbery (Class A), 17-A M.R.S. § 65l(1)(D) (2016); aggravated assault (Class B), 17-A M.R.S. § 2O8(1)(B); and theft by unauthorized taking or transfer (Class D), 17-A M.R.S. § 353(1)(B)(5) (2016). At a hearing on April 26, Jacob entered an admission to the juvenile crime of aggravated assault, and the State dismissed the remaining charges. The court committed Jacob to a juvenile detention facility for an indeterminate period to age twenty. See 15 M.R.S. §§ 3310(5), 33l4(1)(F) (2016).

         [¶6] Pursuant to M.R.U. Crim. P. 41 (j), [3] Jacob filed a post-judgment motion for return of property-namely, the cash seized from him when he was arrested-asserting that the State's continued retention of the cash was illegal. The State opposed the motion, and a hearing was held on August 2, 2016. The evidence presented at the hearing consisted only of the police reports that had been filed in support of the juvenile petition.

         [¶7] At the conclusion of the hearing, the court denied Jacob's motion. The court found that the State was entitled to retain the cash because there was "probable cause to believe that [Jacob and his co-defendant] beat up [the victim] and took his money[, ] [a]nd that the money that the State [was] holding represent[ed] some or all of what was taken from [the victim] after [Jacob] hit him with a two-by-four." The court further explained that charges were still pending against Jacob's co-defendant and that evidence in his trial would "further inform this issue."

         [¶8] After the court announced its decision, Jacob asked whether he would be permitted to file a renewed motion for return of property after the case against the co-defendant was concluded. The court responded that it would not give an advisory opinion about "whatever may or may not happen in the future, " and restated its determination that the State was entitled to retain the cash. The court further stated, "There may be other recourse ...


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