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Name: People v. $2,709
Case #: B250709
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 11/26/2014
Summary

A civil action to forfeit less than $25,000 cash need not be tried or otherwise settled at the same time that the criminal defendant enters a plea on the underlying or related criminal drug charges. Police found Bradford in possession of cocaine and $2,709 in cash. She was charged with possessing cocaine for sale. (Health & Saf. Code, § 11351.5.) The People also commenced a forfeiture proceeding with respect to the $2,709 pursuant to Health and Safety Code sections 11488.4 and 11470 and served Bradford with requests for admissions regarding the ownership and use of the money. Bradford pled guilty to the underlying drug offense, but she did not respond to the People’s requests for admissions. Six months later, the court granted the People’s motion to deem the requests for admissions admitted under Code of Civil Procedure section 2033.280. Two years later, the court granted the People’s motion for summary judgment in the forfeiture proceeding. Bradford appealed, arguing that Health and Safety Code section 11488.4, subdivisions (i)(3) and (i)(5) required that the forfeiture action be “tried in conjunction” with the underlying drug offense and it had been more than two years since she entered her plea. Held: Affirmed. When the property to be forfeited is less than $25,000 the forfeiture action must be “tried in conjunction” with the underlying or related criminal action before the same trier of fact in a bifurcated proceeding. (Health & Saf. Code, § 11488.4, subds. (i)(3) and (i)(5).) The appellate court here concluded that these provisions only apply if the defendant has gone to trial on the criminal charges, not if the defendant has entered a plea. Because Bradford pled guilty to the underlying drug offense, the requirement that a forfeiture action be tried in conjunction with the underlying drug offense was inapplicable.

Granting the People’s motion for summary judgment did not deny defendant her right to a jury trial. A person facing civil forfeiture of her property has a constitutional and statutory right to a jury trial. (Cal. Const., art. I, § 16; Health & Saf. Code, § 11488.4, subd. (i)(5).) However, the right to a jury trial in civil proceedings, like forfeiture actions, is different than the right to a jury trial in criminal proceedings. “[I]n civil cases, the right to a jury trial does not ripen unless there is a genuine issue of material fact suitable for a jury to resolve.” Summary judgment in a civil case does not improperly take away the constitutional right to a jury trial. (Kurokawa v. Blum (1988) 199 Cal.App.3d 976, 991.) Here, defendant’s right to a jury trial was not violated. She did not raise any procedural improprieties related to the summary judgment order or the earlier order granting the People’s requests for admission. Based on the admissions, there were no issues of material fact.