United States v. One 1952 Ford Victoria, 26219.

Decision Date04 September 1953
Docket NumberNo. 26219.,26219.
Citation114 F. Supp. 458
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of California

Lloyd H. Burke, U. S. Atty., Oakland, Cal., Donald B. Constine, Asst. U. S. Atty., San Francisco, Cal., for libelant.

Heller, Ehrman, White & McAuliffe, Eugene S. Clifford, San Francisco, Cal., for claimant S & C Motors.

HARRIS, District Judge.

Libelant filed a libel of information in November 1952, alleging that the subject matter of the instant action had been used by one Chris Niacaris on October 17, 1952, in San Francisco in violation of 49 U.S.C. A. §§ 781-788 inasmuch as the operator of the car had used the vehicle to facilitate the transportation of contraband narcotic drugs. Accordingly, the car was subject to forfeiture.

Claimant, the S & C Motors, seeks to recover possession of the Ford sedan. Claimant's interest in the automobile consists of its equity in the sum of approximately $1,600 which was still owing by Niacaris at the time the automobile was seized. Claimant had retained title to the car which it had sold on a conditional sales contract.

Prior to filing its claim in the case at bar, claimant sought to recover the Ford through administrative action. It appealed to the Attorney General, with whom discretion lay, for the return of the vehicle. Claimant asserted that it acted in good faith in selling the car to Niacaris who had no criminal record of any kind at the time the transaction was consummated. Claimant asserted that Niacaris had worked steadily in a bakery and more recently for the Merchant Marine. Under the circumstances claimant believed that as an innocent party it was entitled to recover the vehicle in order to protect its substantial equity. The narcotic agents, who would themselves be the beneficiaries of the libelant's automobile in the event it were not returned to claimant, made an unfavorable recommendation with respect to returning the Ford. The Attorney General concurred and thereafter claimant was forced to commence the instant action to protect its interest in the automobile.

In seeking recovery of the seized car, claimant makes several assertions. First, it points out that there was an unlawful search and seizure by the libelant at the time the car was seized by the federal agents. Between the time that the agents arrested Niacaris and the time they took the automobile, some two to three hours elapsed. Claimant believes there is significance to such time gap. Such, however, is not the case. The seizure occurs when the car is illegally used. The physical repossession of the automobile may occur subsequently. 49 U.S.C.A. § 782.

The libel action for forfeiture is an in rem proceeding against the car itself. Unless the claimant is able to maintain the burden of proof as to its own right to the vehicle, forfeiture will be declared if the libelant has established probable cause for instituting the suit. United States v. Andrade, 9 Cir., 181 F.2d 42.

Libelant contends it has established probable cause for institution of these proceedings by showing that the car was used to facilitate the transportation of contraband narcotic drugs.

The question arises as to whether claimant has maintained the burden of proving that the automobile was not actually used as a means of transporting the narcotics: Claimant relies upon the testimony of Niacaris himself. He testified that he picked up the package of marijuana in the hotel itself at the direction of his companion, Lippi. Reportedly, the marijuana was hidden under a rug. Niacaris placed the package in his suit just prior to making his entry in his companion's room when the two men were accosted by the federal agents, searched and then placed under arrest. If the testimony of Niacaris is believed to be true, it establishes the fact that the Ford automobile was not used to "facilitate" transportation of contraband narcotic drugs.

Claimant relies upon ...

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19 cases
  • Farley v. $168,400.97
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court
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    ...183 (W.D.Mo.1966); United States v. One 1953 Model Mercury Sedan Auto, 149 F.Supp. 657 (S.D.Ala.1957); United States v. One 1952 Ford Victoria, 114 F.Supp. 458 (N.D.Cal.1953); State v. One 1960 Mercury Station Wagon, 5 Conn.Cir. 1, 240 A.2d 99 The United States does not have the required st......
  • Fell v. Armour
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    ...200 F.Supp. 28 (N.D. Ill.1961); United States v. One 1953 Oldsmobile Sedan, 132 F.Supp. 14 (W. D.Ark.1955); United States v. One Ford Victoria, 114 F.Supp. 458 (N.D.Calif. 1953). But see Berkowitz v. United States, 340 F.2d 168 (1st Cir. 1965) and John Bacall Imports, Ltd. v. United States,......
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    ... ... No. 64 AD. 461 ... United States District Court, S.D. New York ... 978, 72 S.Ct. 1076, 96 L.Ed. 1370 (1952). The burden of proving that such damage was not ... ...
  • United States v. ONE 1972 DATSUN, VEHICLE ID. NO. LB1100355950
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Hampshire
    • July 18, 1974
    ...the mere fact that a car is used by a law violator does not establish the requirement for "facilitation." United States v. One 1952 Ford Victoria, 114 F.Supp. 458, 460 (N.D.Cal.1953). Apposite to this case is Simpson v. United States, 272 F.2d 229 (9th Cir. 1959). In Simpson, claimant alleg......
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