Savely v. Utah Highway PatrolAnnotate this Case
The Supreme Court reversed the state district court’s dismissal of Appellant’s petition asking the court to force the Utah Highway Patrol and Utah Department of Public Safety (collectively, UHP) to return his money held for forfeiture, holding that the court had in rem jurisdiction over Appellant’s funds under the Forfeiture and Disposition of Property Act (Act).
The UHP seized Appellant’s funds in the amount of $500,000 under the Act. The money sat in a UHP bank account for seventy-five days, and no Utah state district court filed forfeiture proceedings. Meanwhile, a federal magistrate issued a seizure warrant for the money on behalf of the DEA. While UHP sent a check for the cash amount, the DEA never cashed the check. Appellant filed a petition in state district court requesting a return of his funds because the prosecuting attorneys failed to take action under Utah Code 24-4-104(1)(a) to avert a law enforcement duty to “return [the] seized property.” The UHP ultimately dismissed the petition, concluding that it lacked in rem jurisdiction of the seized funds based on principles of comity. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the district court had in rem jurisdiction over the property because it was the first to properly exercise in rem jurisdiction to the exclusion of any other court.