United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, CHIEF JUDGE
matter involves a civil asset forfeiture action where an
individual claiming property that was seized filed a claim
with the Government, thereby triggering certain statutory
obligations on the part of the Government under the Civil
Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000.
McDaniel filed a claim with the Drug Enforcement Agency
(“DEA”) for a 2015 Chevrolet City
Express LS VIN 3N63M0YN1FK725252 (the “Defendant
Vehicle”). The DEA, acknowledged receipt of the
claim on October 27, 2017. On January 4, 2019, the Government
filed a Complaint for Forfeiture In Rem for the Defendant
Vehicle. [Filing No. 1.] After filing a verified
claim with the Court asserting ownership of the Defendant
Vehicle, Ms. McDaniel has now moved to dismiss the
Government's Complaint, and that motion is ripe for the
Court's review. [Filing No. 8.]
Standard of Review
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may move to
dismiss a claim that does not state a right to relief. The
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint
provide the defendant with “fair notice of what the . .
. claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.”
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting
Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, the Court must
accept all well-pled facts as true and draw all permissible
inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Active Disposal
Inc. v. City of Darien, 635 F.3d 883, 886 (7th Cir.
2011). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss asks whether the
complaint “contain[s] sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550
U.S. at 570). The Court will not accept legal conclusions or
conclusory allegations as sufficient to state a claim for
relief. See McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d
611, 617 (7th Cir. 2011). Factual allegations must plausibly
state an entitlement to relief “to a degree that rises
above the speculative level.” Munson v. Gaetz,
673 F.3d 630, 633 (7th Cir. 2012). This plausibility
determination is “a context-specific task that requires
the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and
common sense.” Id.
addition, civil forfeiture complaints are subject to a
heightened pleading standard described in Fed.R.Civ.P. Supp.
G. See United States v. Funds in the Amount of
$239, 400, 795 F.3d 639, 641 (7th Cir. 2015)
(“Rule G is a supplement to the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure that applies to in rem actions like this forfeiture
case”). That rule states, in relevant part, that a
(a) be verified; (b) state the grounds for subject-matter
jurisdiction, in rem jurisdiction over the defendant
property, and venue; (c) describe the property with
reasonable particularity; (d) if the property is tangible,
state its location when any seizure occurred and - if
different - its location when the action is filed; (e)
identify the statute under which the forfeiture action is
brought; and (f) state sufficiently detailed facts to support
a reasonable belief that the government will be able to meet
its burden of proof at trial.
Fed. R. Civ. P. Supp. G(2).
to setting forth the facts of this case, the Court first
addresses the attachments included in the parties'
filings. Both the Government and Ms. McDaniel attached
certain supplementary documents to their filings. The
Government attached a warrant for the arrest of the property
to its Complaint, [Filing No. 1-2], while Ms.
McDaniel attached both a sentencing order and a letter
acknowledging her claim for the Defendant Vehicle from the
Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”),
[Filing No. 8-1; Filing No. 8-2].
“If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(c), matters
outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by
the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary
judgment under Rule 56.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). However,
it is well settled that the court may take judicial notice of
matters in the public record. Palay v. United
States, 349 F.3d 418, 425 n. 5 (7th Cir. 2003), and both
the arrest warrant and the sentencing order qualify as such.
See Sherman v. Chiapetta, 2012 WL 4793502,
at *2 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 9, 2012) (taking judicial notice of an
arrest warrant); Boyd v. Alcoke, 2010 WL 3420124, at
*1 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 27, 2010) (taking judicial notice of
criminal sentencing order). As for the DEA letter
acknowledging receipt of Ms. McDaniel's claim, the
Seventh Circuit has held that executive and agency
determinations are subject to judicial notice, Fornalik
v. Perryman, 223 F.3d 523, 529 (7th Cir. 2000) (taking
judicial notice of the notice sent to an individual by an
executive agency advising him of the status of his
immigration action), and therefore the Court concludes that
it may take judicial notice of the DEA letter. Accordingly,
the Court need not convert Ms. McDaniel's Motion to
Dismiss to a motion for summary judgment. In accordance with
the foregoing, the following are the factual allegations set
forth in the Complaint, as well as in the parties'
April 2016 through May 2017, the DEA utilized a confidential
informant to execute controlled buys of drugs from members of
a drug trafficking organization (“DTO.”)
[Filing No. 1 at 2.] On July 29, 2017, the DEA
conducted surveillance of two members of the DTO who used the
Defendant Vehicle to drive from Indianapolis, Indiana to
Gary, Indiana as part of a drug deal. [Filing No. 1 at
2-3.] On August 15, 2017, pursuant to a search warrant,
the DEA searched the residence of one of the DTO members and
seized drugs, weapons, and the Defendant Vehicle. [Filing
No. 1 at 4.] The Defendant Vehicle was registered to Ms.
McDaniel, who was the girlfriend of one of the DTO members.
[Filing No. 1 at 4.]
September 13, 2017, the Government filed an indictment (the
“Indictment”) against the DTO members.
[Filing No. 1 at 4.] The Indictment gave notice that
the United States would seek to forfeit any property
“constituting or derived from any proceeds the
defendants obtained directly or indirectly as a result of the
offenses . . . and any and all property used or intended to
be used in any manner or part to commit and to facilitate the
commission of the offenses.” [Filing No. 1 at
October 11, 2017, the DEA received a claim for the Defendant
Vehicle from Ms. McDaniel. [Filing No.1 at 4]. On October 27,
2017, the DEA acknowledged receipt of Ms. McDaniel's
claim for the Defendant Vehicle. [Filing No. 8-1.]
August 31, 2018, at the sentencing hearing for one of the DTO
members, the Court ordered the forfeiture of $19, 177.00 and
a Taurus 45 caliber pistol but did ...