Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Schutz

Superior Court of Maine, Kennebec

May 10, 2019

STATE OF MAINE
v.
COREY SCHUTZ, Defendant HOLLY HOLMES, Petitioner
v.
STATE OF MAINE

          Attorney: SCOTT HESS THE LAW OFFICE OF SCOTT F HESS LLC.

          DECISION ON MOTION TO RECONSIDER

          WILLIAM R. STOKES JUSTICE.

         The matter before the court is the Motion To Reconsider filed by Petitioner Holly Holmes from the court's Decision and Order dated April 8, 2019 denying her Motion For Return Of Seized Property.

         Ms. Holmes contends that the court applied the wrong legal standard when it used 15 M.R.S. § 5826 rather than requiring the State to pursue a civil forfeiture under 15 M.R.S. § 5822. The court disagrees.

         Title 15 M.R.S. § 5821 describes what property is subject to forfeiture by the State and includes money "furnished or intended to be furnished by any person in exchange for a scheduled drug in violation of Title 17-A, chapter 45; all proceeds traceable to such an exchange, and all money, . . ., used or intended to be used to facilitate any violation of Title 17-A, chapter 45." 15 M.R.S. § 5821(6). An exception is explicitly recognized in section 5821(6)(A) for the following:

No property may be forfeited under this subsection, to the extent of the interest of an owner, by reason of any act or omission established by that owner to have been committed or omitted without the knowledge or consent of that owner.

         If property is subject to forfeiture, the State may file a civil petition for forfeiture. At any hearing, the State has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence "all material facts" and "the owner of the property, or other person claiming under the property has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence all exceptions set forth in section 5821...." 15 M.R.S. § 5822(3). In other words, if a civil petition for forfeiture is filed the person claiming ownership of the property must prove his or her interest in the property and that any act or omission was done without his or her knowledge or consent. At a minimum is the requirement that the person claiming ownership of the property must prove that he or she actually has an ownership interest in it.

         Alternatively, the State may proceed by way of a criminal forfeiture by indictment or complaint against the property subject to seizure. 15 M.R.S. § 5826(2). That is how the State proceeded in this case. In this case the Defendant, Corey Schutz, admitted that the property in question was subject to seizure and forfeiture. As a result, "[a]ll rights, privileges, interest and title in the property subject to forfeiture . . . vest[ed] in the State" 15 M.R.S. §5826(1). Through that admission and the other evidence presented at the hearing in this matter, the State proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the money in question was subject to forfeiture as required by 15 M.R.S. § 5826(4)(A). The criminal forfeiture statute also provides for an "ancillary" hearing for a person, like Ms. Holmes, "asserting a legal interest in the property ... to adjudicate the validity of any alleged interest in the property." 15 M.R.S. § 5826(5).

         The "ancillary" hearing must be heard by the court without a jury. The statute, 15 M.R.S. § 5826(5)(A), provides, in pertinent part:

The court shall issue or amend a final order of forfeiture in accordance with its determination if, after the hearing, the court determines that the petitioner has established by a preponderance of the evidence that:
A. The petitioner has a legal right, title or interest in the property and the right, title or interest renders the order of forfeiture invalid in whole or in part because the right, title or interest was vested in the petitioner rather than any defendant or was superior to any right, title or interest to the exclusion of any defendant at the time of the commission of the acts that gave rise to the forfeiture of the property under this section.

         This is the statutory provision the court applied in its Decision and Order of April 8, 2019 and, in the court's view, encompasses the exception to forfeiture found in section 5821(6)(A). Moreover, under either section 5822's civil petition procedure or the criminal forfeiture process authorized by section 5826, the person claiming ownership in the property subject to forfeiture has the burden of proving that ownership. Accordingly, the court rejects the argument advanced by Ms. Holmes that the statutory scheme unconstitutionally shifts the burden to her.

         Furthermore, the court did not require Ms. Holmes to prove that the funds in question "were not proceeds from drug activities." Motion To Reconsider at 3, ¶ 6. Rather, the court only required Ms. Holmes to prove that she had an ownership interest in the funds, which she failed to do because the court found her testimony and evidence unbelievable. Moreover, the court specifically found that the sum of $20, 294 was subject to forfeiture as proceeds traceable to a violation of Title 17-A, chapter 45.

         Lastly, Ms. Holmes has misconstrued the court's factual findings in its Decision and Order. The purse containing the MDEA "buy" money was not found in the safe, but was the purse or pocketbook being carried by Ms. Holmes when the officers arrived to execute the search warrant. The purse-like bag containing approximately $20, 000 was found in the safe. The court was not confused about that, although its Decision and Order could have been clearer in that regard. In addition, the court's finding that there was "strong evidence that Corey Schutz was using 20 Preble Hill Road as a base from which he would depart and to which he would return after conducting drug transactions, including 10 in a single day, and that at least ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.