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1984 Chevy Camaro & $265.000 U.S. Currency v. Lawrence County Sheriff's Department

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

October 7, 2014

1984 CHEVY CAMARO AND $265.00 U.S. CURRENCY, APPELLANT
v.
LAWRENCE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, APPELLEE

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: LAWRENCE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/20/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. PRENTISS GREENE HARRELL. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: APPELLANT'S PETITION TO CONTEST FORFEITURE DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

ERIC DE'JUAN JONES, APPELLANT, Pro se.

FOR APPELLEE: MORRIS SWEATT SR.

BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., MAXWELL AND FAIR, JJ. LEE, C.J., IRVING AND GRIFFIS, P.JJ., BARNES, ISHEE, ROBERTS AND JAMES, JJ., CONCUR. MAXWELL, J., CONCURS IN PART AND IN THE RESULT WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION. CARLTON, J., DISSENTS WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION.

OPINION

Page 673

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - OTHER

FAIR, J.

¶1. On May 18, 2002, Eric Jones was arrested for possession of 6.2 grams of cocaine. On May 31, 2002, the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department (the County) gave him formal notice of its intention to forfeit his 1984 Chevy Camaro and $265 in cash seized at the time of his arrest. Jones timely filed a petition contesting the forfeiture with the court. However, he failed to serve a copy of the petition on the County as required by the applicable forfeiture statute. See Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-176(5) (Rev. 2013).

¶2. Thereafter, and for the ensuing ten years, Jones filed various motions pursuing a trial on his contest of the forfeiture of his property. He is finally before this Court claiming denial of his due process rights after the circuit court's dismissal of his petition without a hearing and without presentation of any evidence justifying a forfeiture on the part of the County. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

THE COURSE OF PROCEEDINGS

¶3. Shortly after the filing of Jones's petition, the court set the case for trial. Witness subpoenas were issued, some at Jones's request. Several were for County officials, and the others were for law enforcement officers. The scheduled trial was postponed, and on May 21, 2003, the court entered an order staying the forfeiture proceeding pending the disposition of Jones's indictment. Shortly thereafter, on June 25, 2003, Jones pled guilty to possession of a controlled substance and was sentenced to serve sixteen years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with ten years suspended and five years of post-release supervision (PRS).

¶4. There is scant evidence in the record regarding the County's pursuit of the action after 2003. For reasons unknown, no forfeiture proceeding occurred after Jones's guilty plea; the stay order remained in effect from its entry on May 21, 2003, until the court dismissed Jones's petition on December 20, 2012.

¶5. In June 2004, Jones filed a motion for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order, restating his interest in the seized property. The record is silent as to how the motion was handled. In its brief, the County claims that it was unaware that Jones had contested the forfeiture and, as a result, had filed a " declaration of forfeiture" in 2002. There is no such declaration in the record. The Camaro was reportedly sold for $350 at auction in ...


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