United States District Court, District of Columbia
Christopher R. Cooper United States District Judge.
2015, Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a bill reforming the
District of Columbia's civil asset forfeiture regime. The
new law was designed to better protect property owners and
included a variety of procedural and substantive safeguards
to achieve that goal. This case, filed in 2013, is about the
old law. Plaintiffs are a group of individuals whose property
was seized and held for potential forfeiture under the prior
regime. They seek damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
purported violations of their constitutional due process
rights. After the better part of a decade, the dismissal of
myriad claims, certification of two classes, and extensive
discovery, the case has arrived at the summary judgment
stage. As it stands, four claims remain: two that have been
certified for class-wide resolution and two that have not.
Opinion deals only with the two non-class claims. In the
first of those claims (Claim Seven in Plaintiffs'
complaint), all ten remaining Plaintiffs allege that the
District unconstitutionally failed to return their property
promptly after determining it was not subject to forfeiture.
The Court will grant the District's motion for summary
judgment as to five of those Plaintiffs who did not lay claim
to the property. For the remaining five Plaintiffs, however,
the Court will deny both parties' motion for summary
judgment and allow the case to proceed to trial. As for the
second non-class claim (Claim Fourteen)-which alleges that
the District arbitrarily denied or dissuaded property owners
from seeking waivers of a bond requirement to challenge the
forfeiture-the Court will grant the District's motion for
summary judgment because, on the facts presented, no
reasonable jury could find in Plaintiffs' favor.
2015, the Council of the District of Columbia reformed the
city's civil asset forfeiture law, adding protections for
owners of seized property. See Civil Asset
Forfeiture Amendment Act of 2014, 62 D.C. Reg. 1, 920 (Feb.
13, 2015). Until then, the District's forfeiture scheme
had been largely unaltered since 1981. The revamped law has
changed many of the aspects of the prior version that gave
rise to this case. Nevertheless, the District remains liable
for damages stemming from any constitutional infirmities in
the law's prior iteration.
seizures and forfeitures of Plaintiffs' property were
governed by former D.C. Code § 48-905.02 (2012). Under
this statute, the Metropolitan Police Department
(“MPD”) had authority to seize vehicles,
currency, or other property if there were probable cause to
believe the property was the proceeds of a crime or used to
commit a crime. Id. §§ 48-905.02(a),
(d)(3)(A). Once property was seized, the Mayor was obligated
to provide notice to those persons having “a right of
claim to the seized property.” Id. §
48-905.02(d)(3)(A). Upon receiving notice, the property owner
could assert an ownership interest in the property by paying
a bond-either $2, 500 or ten percent of the appraised
property value (whichever was lower). Id. § 48-
905.02(d)(3)(B). A claimant could request a bond reduction or
waiver. D.C. Mun. Regs. 6-A § 806.6-7.
claimant paid the bond (or received a waiver), the District
could initiate judicial forfeiture proceedings in District of
Columbia Superior Court. D.C. Code § 48-905.02(d)(3)(E)
(2012). Absent a bond or waiver, the property was subject to
administrative forfeiture. To pursue administrative
forfeiture, the Mayor's delegee, the MPD Property Clerk,
had to first determine whether the property was forfeitable.
Id. § 48-905.02(d)(3)(C); D.C. Mun. Regs. 6-A
§ 805. If the property was deemed forfeitable, the owner
was permanently dispossessed of the property. D.C. Code
§ 48-905.02(d)(4) (2012). If it was deemed not
forfeitable, the District was obligated to return it to the
owner. Id. § 48-905.02(d)(3)(C).
Court has discussed the facts of this case at length in two
previous opinions. See Hoyte v. District of
Columbia, 325 F.R.D. 485 (D.D.C. 2017); Brown v.
District of Columbia, 115 F.Supp.3d 56 (D.D.C. 2015).
Here, the Court will briefly outline the facts relevant to
each Plaintiff's non-class claims.
2012, Nicoya Hoyte was arrested at her Washington, D.C. home
along with two roommates after police executed a search
warrant and found marijuana and weapons. See
Pls.' Response to Def.'s Statement of Undisputed
Material Facts (“SUMF”), ECF No. 208-1, ¶
11.MPD seized her 2000 Mercury Grand
Marquis-valued at $5, 350-and $1, 540 cash incident to the
arrest. Id.; Declaration of Jerrell Carter Supp.
Def.'s Opp'n to Pls.' Mot. Partial Summ. J. and
Cross-Mot. Summ J. (“Carter Decl.”), ECF No.
192-8, at 69-76, ¶ 6(a). MPD placed the car and currency
under a civil forfeiture hold. Carter Decl. ¶ 6(c).
Hoyte was criminally processed but prosecutors dropped the
charges against her. SUMF ¶¶ 12-13. The MPD
Evidence Control Branch's (“ECB”) database,
EvidenceOnQue, indicates that a notice of intent to forfeit
the car was generated May 24, 2012. Id. ¶ 15;
Carter Decl. ¶ 6(b). The parties dispute whether this notice
was mailed to Hoyte or, if so, whether she received
See SUMF ¶ 15. What is clear is that she went
to the ECB on July 7, 2012 and signed a note indicating she
was “in receipt” of the notice. Def.'s Mot.
Summ. J. Ex. LL, ECF No. 192-8, at 62. Hoyte paid a bond on
the vehicle. SUMF ¶ 16. On April 11, 2013, D.C.'s
Office of the Attorney General released its hold on the
property, indicating it would not pursue civil forfeiture
proceedings. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. MM, ECF No. 192-8,
at 66. Eight days later, the United States Attorney for the
District of Columbia released any evidentiary hold on the
vehicle, id. at 67, whereupon Hoyte retrieved the
vehicle on April 29, 2013, see Carter Decl. ¶
6(d). The Office of the Attorney General did not release the
hold on the currency until over two years later, on August
17, 2015, and Hoyte retrieved it two days later. See
ECF No. 220-3, at 46-48 (MPD property release documentation).
seized Kelly Hughes's 2006 Dodge Magnum-valued at $9,
825-on February 28, 2013. SUMF ¶ 17; Carter Decl. ¶
7(a). According to police records, an MPD drug sniffing dog
“got a hit on the vehicle.” Def.'s Mot. Summ.
J. Ex. A, ECF No. 192-5, at 3. MPD placed evidentiary and
forfeiture holds on the vehicle. SUMF ¶ 18. Ms. Hughes
was never charged with a crime related to the incident.
See Affidavit of Kelly Hughes (“Hughes
Aff.”), ECF No. 220-3, at 24-28, ¶ 16.
EvidenceOnQue shows a notice of intent to forfeit was
generated on March 21, 2013. SUMF ¶ 19; see also
supra note 3. On April 2, 2013, Hughes went to the ECB
to inquire about her vehicle and received in-person notice of
the intent to forfeit. SUMF ¶ 20. The notice required
Hughes to pay a $982 bond; she avers that, instead of paying,
she contacted the D.C. Public Defender Service, which helped
her recover her vehicle. Hughes Aff. ¶¶ 28-29. The
holds were lifted on May 1, 2013. Carter Decl. ¶ 7(c).
Hughes retrieved her vehicle on May 24, 2013. SUMF ¶ 21.
October 30, 2010, MPD officers arrested Jarrett Acey for
possession with intent to distribute MDMA. Officers seized
$1, 516 in cash from Mr. Acey for forfeiture. SUMF ¶ 39;
Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. R, ECF No. 192-7, at 49-52. MPD
sent a notice to administratively forfeit the property to
Acey's mother's home, which was the address on his
arrest report. SUMF ¶ 40. The parties dispute whether
the address was listed on his arrest report because he
provided it to MPD when arrested or because officers took it
from his driver's license. Id. In any case, Acey
saw the notice at his mother's home when visiting her in
2013, prompting him to call MPD to update his address.
Id. ¶¶ 41-42. MPD sent a second notice to
Acey at the address he provided. By the time he received that
notice, the property had already been forfeited. Id.
Julius Gordon & Marilyn Langley
February 2011, MPD officers arrested Julius Gordon and
Marilyn Langley for distribution and possession of Suboxone,
respectively. See ECF No. 220-5, at 79-81 (arrest
report). They seized $49 in connection with the arrest, $44
from Mr. Gordon and $5 from Ms. Langley. SUMF ¶¶
43-44, 47. Prosecutors declined to prosecute either
individual. Carter Decl. ¶¶ 12(d), 13(c). Two years
later, ECB sent a notice to Gordon at the address he gave
MPD. See ECF No. 220-5, at 82-83 (notice dated March
5, 2012). He did not pay a bond or apply for a waiver and
maintains he never received notice. No. notice was sent to
Langley. The $49 was forfeited. SUMF ¶¶ 46, 49.
executed a search warrant on the home of David Littlepage,
which he shared with his son Terrence Thomas. SUMF ¶ 51.
Officers arrested Mr. Littlepage and seized $340 in cash
during the search, apparently from under Mr. Thomas's
mattress. Id. ECB sent three notices to
Littlepage after identifying him as the property owner.
Id. ¶ 52. According to Littlepage, upon
receiving these notices, he told ECB that the money belonged
to his son. See Affidavit of David Littlepage, ECF
No. 177-4 9, ¶ 10. He later signed a “release to
owner” form and picked up the money from ECB. SUMF
¶ 54; Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. FF, ECF No. 192-8, at
seized $814 from Shane Lucas on October 3, 2012 upon his
arrest for possession of an open container of alcohol. SUMF
¶ 56; Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. II, ECF No. 192-8, at
37- 40. MPD officers found drugs on his person during a
search incident to the arrest and charged him with drug
possession. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. II, ECF No. 192-8,
at 37-40. The charges were later dismissed. Carter Decl.
¶ 15(e). The ECB database shows two notices were mailed,
one to the address on Lucas's driver's license and
one, sent six months later, to the address he provided to MPD
when arrested. SUMF ¶¶ 57-59; see also
supra note 3. On November 7, 2013, was seized from
Gordon and $5 was seized from Ms. Langley. See,
e.g., ECF No. 220-5, at 79- 81 (arrest report);
id. at 77-78 (property record); id. at
82-83 (notice mailed to Mr. Gordon regarding $44). D.C.'s
Office of Attorney General sent a memorandum to the ECB
indicating that the crime with which Lucas was charged did
not permit forfeiture and that the money should be returned
to him. ECF No. 177-51. On February 7, 2014, Lucas was told
he could pick up his money at ECB, which he did later that
day. SUMF ¶¶ 61-62.
seized Romona Person's 2010 Nissan Altima in November
2012. Id. ¶ 27. She contacted the ECB to
inquire about the car and was given a notice of intent to
forfeit the vehicle. Id. ¶ 29. Ms. Person
neither paid a bond nor applied for a bond waiver. Instead,