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Name: People v. Semaan
Case #: S139685
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 08/13/2007

Penal Code section 186.11 (sometimes called the Freeze and Seize Law) permits the superior court to take possession of the assets of defendants convicted of certain white collar crimes so that payment of restitution claims can be facilitated. Under section 186.11 the burden is on the third party claimant of the assets to prove his asserted interest beyond a preponderance of evidence.

Appellants here were convicted of 99 counts of grand theft and bad checks, resulting in more than a million dollars in loss. While the case was pending, the prosecution filed a petition under section 186.11 to preserve assets of appellants, including a bank account. A sister-in-law to one of the appellants subsequently filed claim to the account which was denied for insufficient evidence. The appellate court reversed and applying Evidence Code section 662, found that once claimant showed nominal title to the assets, the burden to disprove claimant’s interest shifted to the prosecution. The Supreme Court disagreed. Since the statute did not assign the burden, the default rule of Evidence Code section 500 assigned the burden of proof to the party asserting ownership.