STATE v. ALONSO

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Court of Appeals of Georgia.

STATE of Georgia v. ALONSO et al.

No. A14A0302.

Decided: May 5, 2014

Peter J. Skandalakis, for State of Georgia. Michael George Kam, for Alonso et al.

The State initiated administrative forfeiture proceedings under OCGA § 16–13–49(n) against various personal property with a value of less than $25,000 owned by Jacqueline M. Alonzo and Brandy N. Espiritu. The trial court dismissed the State's complaint for forfeiture on the basis that the complaint was not timely filed, and the State appeals. For the following reasons, we find that the trial court erred by dismissing the complaint, and we reverse.

The State seized the property1 on May 1, 2013, and, pursuant to the administrative procedures set forth in OCGA § 16–13–49(n), notified owners and interest holders that the property had been seized and was subject to forfeiture, and that they had the right to file a claim setting forth their interest in the property and relief sought. Smith v. State of Ga., 301 Ga.App. 870–871, 690 S.E.2d 208 (2010); State of Ga. v. Howell, 288 Ga.App. 176, 177–178, 653 S.E.2d 330 (2007). After Alonzo and Espiritu filed timely claims on June 17, 2013, the State filed its complaint on July 10, 2013, seeking in rem forfeiture pursuant to OCGA § 16–13–49(n)(5) and (o). The trial court dismissed the State's forfeiture complaint on the basis that the State failed to file the complaint within 60 days from the date of seizure as required by OCGA § 16–13–49(h)(2).

OCGA § 16–13–49(h)(2) provides: ‘Within 60 days from the date of seizure, a complaint for forfeiture shall be initiated as provided for in subsection (n), (o), or (p) of this Code section.’ However, subsection (n) sets forth an alternative to immediately filing a civil complaint where the seized property is worth less than $25,000. In such a case, the State may simply provide notice of the seizure and wait for a claimant to file a claim. Then, if a claim to the seized property is filed within 30 days of the notice [as set forth in subsection (n) ], the State must file a civil complaint within 30 days of actual receipt of the claim. OCGA § 16–13–49(n)(5).

State of Ga. v. Profitt, 213 Ga.App. 270, 444 S.E.2d 356 (1994); Robinson v. State of Ga., 209 Ga.App. 446, 447, 433 S.E.2d 707 (1993). The State's complaint filed pursuant to the administrative procedures set forth in OCGA § 16–13–49(n) seeking forfeiture of seized property valued at less than $25,000 was timely filed within 30 days of receipt of the claims made by Alonzo and Espiritu.

Judgment reversed.

ANDREWS, Presiding Judge.

McFADDEN and RAY, JJ., concur.

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