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United States of America v. 1996 Freightliner Fld

March 11, 2011

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
1996 FREIGHTLINER FLD TRACTOR
1997 REFRIGERATED UTILITY CKJ TRAILER VIN DEFENDANTS, ALFONSO REGALADO, CLAIMANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona D.C. No. VIN 1FUYDXYB0TP822291; CV 08-423-TUC-1UYVS2539VU244116, Cindy K. Jorgenson, District Judge, Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kleinfeld, Circuit Judge:

FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Argued and Submitted April 12, 2010-San Francisco, California

Before: Andrew J. Kleinfeld, A. Wallace Tashima, and Sidney R. Thomas, Circuit Judges.

Opinion by Judge Kleinfeld; Concurrence by Judge Thomas

OPINION

We address the government's time limit for filing forfeiture complaints.

I. Facts

Regalado got caught driving a ton of marijuana across the border, hidden under a load of rotten tomatoes. He claimed lack of knowledge, but was convicted in a jury trial. The indictment on which he was convicted charged that he "did knowingly and intentionally possess with intent to distribute."

Before trial, the Justice Department sent Regalado notice that the government had seized his truck, a Freightliner big rig, and the refrigerated trailer he had hauled with it, for forfeiture. His attorney sent timely notices of his claim as owner of the tractor and as bailee of the trailer.

After Regalado was convicted, the government filed a complaint for forfeiture. Regalado filed a verified claim for the truck and trailer, alleging that he was the owner of one and baileee of the other, and that the government's complaint was untimely. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court ruled in favor of the government, and Regalado appeals.

II. Analysis

The only issue before us is timeliness. The applicable statute and regulation can arguably be read to give the government sixty days from a claim of ownership to file a complaint, in which case the government filed too late, or ninety days, in which case its complaint was timely. Regalado's claim was ...


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