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United States v. Sweet

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA


May 23, 2008

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
DERRICK SWEET, DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Friedman United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This matter is before the Court on defendant's motion for return of property pursuant to Rule 41(g) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.*fn1 Mr. Sweet is seeking the return of $596.00 taken at the time of his arrest by Metropolitan Police Department officers.*fn2

Upon consideration of Mr. Sweet's motion and the District of Columbia's opposition, the Court will deny Mr. Sweet's motion without prejudice and will order the District to file a notice with the Court indicating whether civil forfeiture proceedings have been initiated in compliance with the D.C. Code. If the District has not done so, the Court will entertain a renewed motion for return of property from Mr. Sweet.

The District of Columbia forfeiture statute provides the necessary guidance on this question. See D.C. CODE § 48-905.02. Detained property, such as the $596.00 in question, is "deemed to be in the custody of the Mayor," id. § 48-905.02(d)(2), who may choose to forfeit such property under certain circumstances. The District correctly argues that Mr. Sweet's money may be forfeitable under the statute. See D.C. CODE §§ 48-905.02(a)(6), (a)(7), and (a)(7)(B). In order to forfeit Mr. Sweet's property, however, the Mayor must comply with certain statutorily prescribed requirements; these include notifying Mr. Sweet of the pending forfeiture proceedings and giving him "information on the applicable procedures for claiming the property" prior to forfeiture. Id. § 48-905.02(d)(3)(A). It is not clear from the District's opposition whether forfeiture proceedings have been initiated against the $596.00 in question -- let alone whether the District has complied with all of the procedural requirements of Section 48-905.02.*fn3

If the District has not initiated forfeiture proceedings, it remains within the power of this Court to return defendant's property to him. See District of Columbia v. Dunmore, 749 A.2d 740 (D.C. 2000) (noting that "once the District has timely initiated civil forfeiture proceedings under [Section 48-905.02], those proceedings constitute the exclusive means by which the ownership of forfeitable property is to be determined") (emphasis added). Unless the District can show the Court that those proceedings have been initiated, this Court would have the authority to grant defendant's motion. Accordingly, it is hereby

ORDERED that defendant's motion for return of property [36] is DENIED without prejudice; and it is

FURTHER ORDERED that the District of Columbia shall file, on or before May 30, 2008, notice with the Court indicating whether civil forfeiture proceedings have been initiated and, if so, (1) when those proceedings were initiated, and (2) whether the District has complied with the statutory procedures outlined in Section 48-905.02.

SO ORDERED.


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