Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CV-12-10889.
Kirk M. Anderson, Anderson Law Firm, PLLC, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)
Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Julie K. Bowman, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Rodenberg, Judge; and Hooten, Judge.
On appeal, appellant Daniel Garcia-Mendoza argues that the district court erred in granting Hennepin County's motion for summary judgment and ordering forfeiture of the respondent property. We affirm.
On March 19, 2012, appellant was stopped by police in Minneapolis while driving respondent 2003 Chevrolet Tahoe. Police Officer Ryan Peterson noticed that appellant "had both hands on the steering wheel and was looking straight ahead." The Tahoe had been travelling 62 to 63 miles per hour in a 60-mile-per-hour zone, according to Officer Peterson. A registration check on the Tahoe revealed that it was owned by Ricardo Cervantes-Perez, a name used by appellant, and that no driver's license was associated with the vehicle's owner. Officer Peterson stopped appellant on suspicion that he was driving without a valid driver's license.
Neither appellant nor his passenger had a driver's license that was valid in Minnesota. As a result, Officer Peterson issued appellant a citation for driving without a license, and he decided to have the Tahoe towed. Prior to the tow, Northwest Drug Task Force Officer Casey Landherr conducted an inventory search of the Tahoe. During this inventory search, Officer Landherr found a plastic bag with 225.90 grams of methamphetamine inside a Pringles can "covered up in a bag of clothes." Appellant was arrested and respondent $611.00 in United States currency was seized from his person. Appellant was given a notice of seizure and intent to forfeit the Tahoe and the $611.00.
The state of Minnesota later charged appellant with first-degree possession of methamphetamine. On May 7, 2012, appellant timely filed a petition for judicial determination of forfeiture under Minn. Stat. § 609.5314, subd. 3 (2010). On May 21, appellant was charged in United States District of Minnesota with three counts of distribution of methamphetamine and one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Count 4, the count of possession, related to the methamphetamine seized in the March 19 traffic stop. The state of Minnesota dismissed its criminal case against appellant after the federal charges were filed. The forfeiture action in state court was stayed pending resolution of the federal criminal charges.
On July 21, a federal magistrate judge determined that the March 19 traffic stop was lawful and recommended denial of appellant's motion to suppress the evidence resulting from the search. A federal district court judge later adopted that recommendation. Shortly after the magistrate judge's report, appellant agreed to plead guilty to Count 2 of the federal indictment. Count 2 charged appellant with distribution of 50 grams or more of methamphetamine on or about December 22, 2011. Under the plea agreement, the federal government dismissed the other counts in the indictment and appellant agreed
to forfeit any and all property constituting, or derived from, any proceeds [appellant] obtained, directly or indirectly, as the result of [appellant's] violation, as well as any and all of [appellant's] property used, or intended to be used, in any manner or part, to commit, or to facilitate the commission of [appellant's] violation.
The federal plea agreement set forth a factual basis for the guilty plea, stating that appellant distributed 180 grams of methamphetamine from November 3, 2011 to March 19, 2012. Appellant also admitted possessing 162 additional grams of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute during that same time period. It is unclear from the record whether the quantities of ...