from the Henry Circuit Court Trial Court Cause No.
33C01-1602-MI-10 The Honorable Bob A. Witham, Judge
Attorney for Appellant Stephen Gerald Gray Indianapolis,
Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana Frances Barrow Deputy Attorney General
Edgar Ariel Gonzalez ("Gonzalez") pled guilty to
Possession of Marijuana, as a Class B
misdemeanor. The State filed civil proceedings and
obtained forfeiture of $810.00 in Gonzalez's pocket at
the time of his arrest. Gonzalez appeals, presenting the sole
issue of whether the State presented sufficient evidence to
support the trial court's forfeiture order. We reverse.
and Procedural History
On January 25, 2016, Hancock County Sheriff's Deputy
Nicholas Ernstes ("Deputy Ernstes") was on duty as
part of a drug interdiction team patrolling traffic eastbound
on I-70 in Henry County, Indiana. Deputy Ernstes observed a
"substantially dirty" vehicle following too close
to another vehicle. (Tr. at 8.) He received a
"wanted/stolen hit on the license
plate" and initiated a traffic stop. (Tr. at 10.)
As Deputy Ernstes approached the vehicle, he smelled the odor
of marijuana. He asked for vehicle registration and
identification from the four occupants of the vehicle. When
Gonzalez opened a glove box to retrieve the rental agreement
for the vehicle, Deputy Ernstes observed a plastic item that
he recognized as a marijuana dispensary container. He also
observed marijuana residue throughout the vehicle. There
appeared to be tool marks on the center console, and Deputy
Ernstes suspected that there had been tampering.
Deputy Ernstes and back-up officers removed the vehicle
occupants, searched them, and pried open the center console
to look beneath it. In the area underneath the center
console, an area typically left void, the officers discovered
a substance that, to Deputy Ernstes, smelled like heroin.
Deputy Ernstes observed that the substance changed color,
appearing to test positive for heroin, after another officer
subjected it to field testing.
It was discovered that the driver had rented the vehicle, one
of the passengers had cocaine in her purse, and another
passenger had secreted cocaine in her body. Each of the
foregoing pled guilty to a felony related to possession of a
narcotic. Gonzalez pled guilty to Possession of Marijuana, as
a Class B misdemeanor.
On February 1, 2016, the State filed a Complaint for
Forfeiture alleging that $810.00 had been seized from
Gonzalez on January 25, 2016, and further alleging:
Said currency had been furnished or was intended to be
furnished in exchange for a violation of a criminal statute,
or used to facilitate any violation of a criminal statute or
is traceable as proceeds of the violation of a criminal
statute under Indiana law, as provided in I.C. 34-24-1.
at 8.) On November 23, 2016, a bench trial was conducted. On
November 30, 2016, the trial court entered a ...