Alabama asset forfeiture law provides an extensive list of items that law enforcement officers can seize in connection with drug crimes. Under Alabama Code Section 20-2-93(a)(5) (1975), this list includes your car if it is used to sell or transport drugs.
Although appeals of convictions for controlled substance crimes are appealed to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, forfeiture cases are considered to be civil court claims. Because of this, drug forfeiture appeals are reviewed by the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals instead.
In the case of Wallace v. State, released today, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals reversed a Shelby County drug forfeiture order because there was no evidence that the owner of the car was aware that it was being used by his son to commit drug crimes. Alabama Code Section 20-2-93(h) (1975) provides an innocent owner defense that can be raised as an affirmative defense to a drug forfeiture. “Thus, a ‘lack of knowledge or consent is an affirmative defense, available after the State has made a prima facie case for forfeiture.'” Kuykendall v. State, 955 So. 2d 442, 445 (Ala. Civ. App. 2006).
The Court of Civil Appeals said the evidence showed that the owner denied knowing that his son was going to use the vehicle to transport marijuana, and that the State failed to present any evidence to suggest any reason why the owner should have used due diligence to inquire into the reason his son wanted to use the car. Since the trial court’s findings in the judgment were not supported by the evidence, the Court of Civil Appeals reversed the forfeiture.
Click here to read the full text of Wallace v. State.
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