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Butler v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

December 27, 2019

Eric BUTLER, $236.00 in U.S. Currency, and One 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix, Appellants-Defendants,
v.
STATE of Indiana, the Consolidated City of Indianapolis/Marion County, and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Law Enforcement Agency, Appellees-Plaintiffs.

         Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Hon. James Joven, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 49D13-1702-MI-7676

Page 871

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 872

         Attorney for Appellant, Eric Butler: Stephen Gerald Gray, Indianapolis, Indiana.

         Attorneys for Appellee, the State of Indiana: Curtis T. Hill, Jr., Attorney General of Indiana, Ellen H. Meilaender, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.

         OPINION

         Bradford, Judge.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] In December of 2016, Eric Butler was pulled over while driving his 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix ("the Car"), and a search revealed thirty-four grams of marijuana, approximately forty-six grams of heroin, and $236 in cash. The State, the Consolidated City of Indianapolis/Marion County, and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Law Enforcement Agency (collectively, "Appellees"), filed a civil forfeiture action against Butler, $236.00 in U.S. Currency, and one 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix (collectively, "Appellants").

         [¶2] While the civil forfeiture action was pending, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana found Indiana's civil-forfeiture scheme to be unconstitutional in several respects. Effective July 1, 2018, several amendments took effect which were intended to cure the constitutional infirmities in Indiana's civil forfeiture laws ("the 2018 Amendments"). When the trial court entered judgment in favor of Appellants based on the old statutes, Appellees refiled pursuant to the amended statutes. In December of 2018, the trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Appellees. Appellants argue that the trial court erroneously entered summary judgment in favor of Appellees and abused its discretion in failing to award Appellants attorney's fees. Because Appellants have failed to establish that the trial court erred in concluding that the 2018 Amendments cured the constitutional defects in Indiana's civil-forfeiture statutes and have waived any claim regarding attorney's fees in the trial court, we affirm. Moreover, we decline Appellants' request for an award of appellate attorney's fees.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶3] On December 8, 2016, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officers conducted a traffic stop of the Car, which was driven and owned by Butler. During the stop, police discovered approximately thirty-four grams of marijuana in the vehicle, approximately forty-six grams of heroin in a baggy in Butler's pocket, and $236 in cash. The State charged Butler with Level 2 felony dealing a narcotic drug and Level 3 felony possession of a narcotic drug, and the Car and the cash were seized by law enforcement and held for forfeiture. On February 23, 2017, Appellees filed a civil complaint seeking forfeiture of the Car and the $236. In April of 2017, Appellees moved for default judgment, which the trial court granted on April 28, 2017.

         [¶4] On August 18, 2017, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana ruled Indiana's statutory forfeiture scheme unconstitutional. See Washington v. Marion Cty. Prosecutor, et al.,264 F.Supp.3d 957, 961, 975-80 (S.D. Ind. 2017). The district court concluded that "Indiana Code Section 34-24-1-1(a)(1), read in conjunction with the Indiana Code provisions of the same chapter, violates the Due Process Clause" and permanently enjoined the Marion County Prosecutor from ...


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