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Jim Reilly
Jim Reilly, Crim Defense Atty
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 1805
Experience:  CA Atty since 1976, primarily criminal law. 150+ jury trials.
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I had $54,500 dollars seized after a trip to California on

Customer Question

I had $54,500 dollars seized after a trip to California on business. I was the passenger in a vehicle that got pulled over by hwy patrol. Unbeknowing to me one of the individuals had mariguana on him. the car was searched and hid mariguana was found in his belongings and my money in mine. Although he claimed the mariguana and produced his medical mariguana info they seized my money and gave everyone a citation for mariguana. Now I have a court date. Was this right? My money came from my business acount and is tracable through that account and checks recieved to my busisness all documented. What can I do to get my money back speedily.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Jim Reilly replied 4 years ago.
Hello eur3118o and welcome to JustAnswer.

There are two different procedures that apply to recovering money in situations such as this. One applies if you are charged with a related criminal offense; the other if you are not. Can you tell me specifically what you were cited for? I'm guessing 11357, subd. (c), of the Health & Safety Code, but the correct procedure to follow depends on the exact charges and likely court proceedings going forward.

When is your court date and what county did this occur in?

You should also have been provided with a receipt for your money, as well as forms for filing a claim. Did you get them?

Unfortunately, there is no "speedy" way to get your money back unless the cops can be convinced that the money is clean. It might be worth trying to do that, by way of having an attorney contact the CHP directly. However, it is more likely that you will have to do it as part of the court proceedings on your citation.

I have handled several of these types of cases in my private practice. The DA's office will likely try to "forfeit" at least some of the money as part of the legal proceedings. This is nothing more or less than a money grab and you almost certainly will need an attorney to help you out with this. In the end, if you can provide documentation which shows that the money was not the proceeds of drug sales, you will probably be able to get it all back, but it will not likely be an easy process.

If you will provide the additional information requested above, I can give you a more detailed response. I will, however, be away most of the day tomorrow making a court appearance in Monterey County, which is about 3 hours away. If you reply, I will pick it up when I get back from court, probably in the late afternoon, California time, and will get back to you shortly thereafter.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I was cited for 11359 andXXXXXdate is July 1st. I have a reciept for the money and all paperwork associated with it. This occured in Sonoma County. What bothers me is that the gentleman who had this stuff clearly told the officer that the mariguana was his for his personal use, yet they still wrote me and the other gentleman a citation. As far as my money I have all documentation of my money when I took it out the bank how I got it in the bank etc.all on my bank statements.

Expert:  Jim Reilly replied 4 years ago.

Hello again eur3118o.

With charges of 11359 and 11360, there must have been a fairly significant quantity of marijuana. On the other hand, the fact that you were cited and released on two potential felony charges shows this case for exactly what it is -- a money grab, pure and simple.

Sometime before your appearance on July 1st, you may receive a notice from the DA's office which will include a copy of a complaint filed in lieu of the citation. It may charge the 11359 and 11360 and may add a count of 182, conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

This notice may also include a suggested ECR ("Early Case Resolution"), which would be something like plead guilty to 11357, subd. (c), waive the PC 1210 (drug treatment) and PC 1000 (drug diversion) alternatives, perhaps a short period of probation, no jail time and forfeit the $54,500.

What they are really interested in is getting your money -- drug forfeitures are a significant source of law enforcement funding and many DA's offices (including Sonoma, where I have another such case pending right now) are aggressive about trying to keep money that has been seized.

To give you an idea of how the California legislature has encouraged this money grab, if the amount seized is less than $25,000, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt (the same standard as for a criminal conviction) that the funds were related to criminal drug activity. However, if the amount seized is more than $25,000, the burden of proof is preponderance of the evidence or just a bit over 50-50 (the same standard as in civil proceedings). This, of course, makes it easier for the government to keep the larger amounts of money.

As I mentioned previously, this kind of case almost certainly will require the assistance of counsel experienced in criminal law and forfeiture proceedings. Since you live out of the area, you can contact the Sonoma County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service, which will refer you to an attorney capable of handling this kind of case. Contact information for the Sonoma LRS is here:

A lawyer may also be able to make appearances on your behalf, without your having to return to California for every such appearance, by filing a Penal Code section 977 waiver of appearance. The Sonoma ECR court is a bit touchy on this, but persistent counsel should be able to relieve you of at least some of the appearances along the way.

If you have any other questions about this situation, please let me know.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

The amount from what I was told was approx a pound and a few ounces i didnt see the mariguana and didnt know it was there.How am I charged with possession in this matter when I was a passenger in a vehicle and the individual that possessed the mariguana said it was his and had it in his belongings (napsack). Possession is 9/10ths of the law thus this doesnt fall in the catergory to charge me with possession. It doesnt fall in the relm of constructive possession either being this gentleman had it in his belongings and I had no knowledge of or control over. Please advise??

Expert:  Jim Reilly replied 4 years ago.
Possession of more than a pound of marijuana can constitute felony level possession and/or possession for sale.

The police are under no obligation to accept the representations by you or the driver regarding who knew about the marijuana. That old adage, "possession is 9/10ths of the law", is just a saying -- it has no legal effect (and was originally intended to describe the effects of possession in a dispute between two people over who was entitled to have some particular piece of property).

When drugs are found in a vehicle, it is common for everyone in the vehicle to be arrested, cited and/or charged, with actual legal liability to be determined once the case gets to court. There are obvious reasons why this is so -- the most common being that one person might take responsibility solely for the purpose of "protecting" others in the vehicle, even though they were in fact equally involved in the criminal enterprise.

In your situation, if the case were to go to trial and the driver took the witness stand and admitted that the pot was his and you didn't know it was there, that would probably be enough for you to be acquitted, though it would be no guarantee.

Which brings us back, for the time being, to what you should do to get your money back. Have you heard anything further from the DA's office? Have you attempted to contact an attorney?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I have contacted a attorney, no charges have been filed as of yet concerning the citation and I was told by an attorney that they may not file charges. The police report hadnt been complete as of yesterday the incident happened on Saturday. The attorney is pretty confident that if charges are filed that they will ultimately be dismissed leaving the forfeiture proiceedings.

Expert:  Jim Reilly replied 4 years ago.
Hi Dirk,

I'm just following up to see how things are going with your case. Have you heard anything from the court yet?

Let me know,
Jim Reilly
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

No I havent hopefully I will hear something on Monday