Big news out of San Diego! In May, a court ordered the District Attorney’s Office to return every last penny of the more than $100,000 it seized from the Slatic family using civil forfeiture. This important victory came after a 15-month battle before two different courts and three different judges. In the face of great odds, the Slatic family and IJ persisted. That persistence paid off when a judge agreed that the DA had no grounds to hold the money.
Liberty & Law readers will recall that the DA seized the Slatic family’s money in February 2016, following a raid on James Slatic’s legal medical marijuana business. The DA seized more than $55,000 from James’ personal bank account, more than $34,000 from his wife, Annette, and more than $5,600 each from their teenage daughters, Lily and Penny, who had saved the money for college.
The DA seized more than $55,000 from James’ personal bank account, more than $34,000 from his wife, Annette, and more than $5,600 each from their teenage daughters, Lily and Penny, who had saved the money for college.
This happened even though James Slatic had operated his medical marijuana business legally and openly for over two years and even though his family never had any involvement in his business. In November 2016, IJ stepped in to help get the family their money back.
California’s courts are not an easy place to litigate, but we never once thought about giving up. Two judges denied IJ’s three separate motions asking the government to return the money. When the DA missed a February 2017 deadline to file a formal lawsuit to forfeit the money, she still refused to return it and attempted to file a case anyway. The case was assigned to a judge who ruled in March that the DA had missed the mandated deadline. Ultimately, the judge ordered the prompt return of every penny taken from the family, ruling,
[The] money that [the] People are holding does not appear to have any evidentiary value on its own, and it cannot be declared contraband without due process.
This case exemplifies IJ’s perseverance. While most attorneys and their clients would have thrown in the towel after one, two or three unsuccessful attempts to get the money back, IJ and the Slatics did no such thing. The team persisted through hearing after hearing and ream after ream of paper filed with the court, even when we were bounced from judge to judge and told “no” again and again.
Thanks to the generous support of IJ’s donors, we had the resources and grit to fight to the end for the Slatics. But most people who find themselves caught up in the civil forfeiture machine are not so lucky.
The Slatics’ victory vindicates the right of every Californian to be free from the unjust seizure of their property. The victory also affirms that no matter what obstacles IJ faces, we will fight on behalf of clients like the Slatics across the country to end civil forfeiture.
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