Augustin v. Bradley Cnty. Sheriff's Office, E2021-00345-COA-R3-CV

CourtCourt of Appeals of Tennessee
Writing for the CourtKENNY ARMSTRONG, JUDGE
Docket NumberE2021-00345-COA-R3-CV
Decision Date21 November 2022



No. E2021-00345-COA-R3-CV

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

November 21, 2022

Assigned on Briefs April 1, 2022

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Bradley County No. V-16-082 Lawrence Howard Puckett, Judge

This is the second appeal of this forfeiture action. Appellant seeks the return of seized property and damages under Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-33-215(b). In Augustin v. Bradley County Sheriff's Office, et al., 598 S.W.3d 220 (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 10, 2019), this Court affirmed the trial court's dismissal of Mr. Augustin's claim for return of the seized property but remanded the case for further proceedings on the section 40-33-215(b) question. The trial court denied Appellant's request for damages under section 40-33-215(b). Because Appellant is not a prevailing party, he does not meet the threshold requirement for an award of damages under section 40-33-215(b). Affirmed and remanded.

Tenn. R. App. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed and Remanded

Abraham A. Augustin, Coleman, Florida, appellant, pro se.

Thomas E. LeQuire and David L. Berry, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellees, Bradley County Sheriff, and Jimmy Smith.

Kenny Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and John W. McClarty, J., joined.



The relevant background facts are set out in this Court's opinion in Augustin v. Bradley County Sheriff's Office, et al., 598 S.W.3d 220 (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 10, 2019) ("Augustin I"):

On February 9, 2016, Petitioner/Appellant Abraham Asley Augustin ("Appellant") filed an action in the Bradley County Circuit Court ("the trial court") seeking a return of "property that [was] forfeited without Due Process" against the Bradley County Sheriff's Department ("the Bradley County Sheriff's Department" or "Appellee") . Appellant was arrested on December 3, 2009 by the Bradley County Sheriff's Department on a warrant for kidnapping and robbery. Incident to this arrest in Bradley County Appellant alleged that both his vehicle and cash were seized At the time, Appellant signed a notice of seizure form indicating that cash and drugs had been seized. Appellant was then transferred to Hamilton County, where the charges were pending. He was subsequently released on bond.
On December 9, 2009, Appellant was arrested a second time by the Bradley County Sheriff's Department on federal kidnapping charges. Incident to this arrest, Appellant alleged that additional cash and a U-Haul were seized by the Bradley County Sheriff's Department. A notice of forfeiture regarding the seized cash, as well as seized narcotics, indicates that a notice was presented to Appellant, but he refused to sign.
In 2012, Appellant filed his first action for return of the seized property in the trial court. The action was eventually dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and expiration of the statute of limitations. Following the dismissal of his first action, Appellant engaged in federal litigation concerning the seized property. In the course of the federal litigation, on November 12, 2015, Appellant alleged that he finally received information regarding the seizure and forfeiture of his property. Specifically, Appellant alleged that he learned that although the Bradley County Sheriff's Department obtained forfeiture warrants and later forfeiture orders regarding Appellant's "property and cash," documents relative to the seizure were not properly mailed to Appellant as required by statute. According to Appellant's complaint and attached documents, the warrants and orders were in fact mailed to addresses in North Carolina, despite the fact that Appellant resided at the Bradley County jail at all relevant times. Thus, Appellant alleged that the Bradley County Sheriff's Department knowingly and intentionally mailed the notices to an incorrect address, thereby depriving Appellant of his ability to contest the forfeiture of the property at issue. Appellant further alleged that this action violated his constitutional rights and that he was entitled to "the monetary equivalence" of the seized property and cash, as well as attorney's fees.
On August 1, 2016, Appellant filed a motion for default judgment against Appellee. Appellant thereafter filed additional motions to ensure his participation in the case despite his incarceration and to

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