from Greene Circuit Court (CV-17-900029)
Willingham and David T. Shaw of Griess, Shaw & Willingham,
P.C., Eutaw, for appellant.
Marshall, atty. gen., and Yvonne A.H., Saxon, asst. atty.
gen., for appellee.
Manuel Martinez-Camacho ("Camacho") appeals from a
judgment entered by the Greene Circuit Court ("the trial
court") ordering the forfeiture of $52,560 ("the
$52,560") to the State of Alabama pursuant to Ala. Code
1975, § 20-2-93.
and Procedural History
March 13, 2017, at approximately 4:00 a.m., Agent Robbie
Autery, who is a member of the 17th Judicial Circuit Drug
Task Force, stopped a four-door 2015 Toyota Tundra pickup
truck ("the truck") for speeding on Interstate 59
South in Greene County. The truck had California license
plates and was owned by Camacho, who is a United States
citizen and a resident of Ukiah, California. Camacho was
sitting in the front-passenger seat of the truck. The driver
of the truck was Christian Aguilar-Hernandez
("Hernandez"), who is a Mexican citizen and speaks
limited English. The record includes a recording made by
Agent Autery's patrol-vehicle video camera, which also
incorporates an audio recording through a device apparently
worn by Agent Autery. Deputy Donald Gant was also in Agent
Autery's patrol vehicle when he made the traffic stop, as
was Agent Autery's drug-detection dog, Suza.
Autery approached Camacho's truck on the passenger side.
Agent Autery spoke to Camacho and to Hernandez, requested
Hernandez's driver's license, and inquired about his
driving history. Hernandez and Camacho indicated to Agent
Autery that Hernandez had a previous ticket. Agent Autery
informed Hernandez that, "as long as it had been
awhile" since the previous ticket, Agent Autery would
"just give [Hernandez] a warning." Agent Autery
then requested that Hernandez accompany him to his patrol
vehicle, where Agent Autery interviewed Hernandez after
patting him down. Agent Autery knows limited Spanish, and
Hernandez and Agent Autery communicated sometimes in English
and sometimes in Spanish. Hernandez told Agent Autery that he
and Camacho had been in Atlanta for approximately "four
days" and that they were driving to Dallas.
few minutes of discussion with Hernandez, Agent Autery left
his patrol vehicle and spoke to Camacho, who had remained in
the truck. Agent Autery obtained Camacho's driver's
license and interviewed him as to his and Hernandez's
travel itinerary. Camacho told Agent Autery that he and
Hernandez had been in Atlanta for a "few days" and
were driving to Dallas. Agent Autery asked Camacho a series
of questions regarding the presence of any weapons, drugs,
money, or anything illegal in the truck. (A portion of each
question was in Spanish.) Camacho replied "no" to
each inquiry, and, when asked if there was anything illegal
in the truck, he stated: "[N]othing illegal."
Autery returned to his patrol vehicle and radioed for
background checks on Hernandez, Camacho, and the truck. While
Agent Autery was waiting for the response to the
background-check request, he asked a few additional questions
to Hernandez. After approximately 17 minutes, the person who
conducted the background checks informed Autery that,
among other things, Camacho had been arrested in 2010 in
Nebraska for possession of a controlled substance with intent
to deliver but that the prosecution of the case based on that
arrest had been "declined."
completion of the background-check discussion, Agent Autery
returned Hernandez's license, issued him a written
warning for speeding, and told him that Agent Autery was
"through with the traffic stop." The traffic stop
had taken approximately 30 minutes. Agent Autery then asked
Hernandez about whether any weapons, drugs, or money were in
the truck. Hernandez responded no to those inquiries. Agent
Autery then stated that he was going to ask Camacho if he
could search the truck, and he directed Hernandez to remain
in the patrol vehicle.
Autery again left his patrol vehicle, stating, presumably to
Deputy Gant, "[Camacho's] been popped before,"
and proceeded to the truck to speak to Camacho. Agent Autery
returned Camacho's license and then asked him for
permission to search the truck. After a brief discussion with
Agent Autery, during which Camacho stated he had had problems
from the delays and officers' actions during previous
searches of his vehicle, Camacho refused to consent to a
search. Agent Autery then instructed Camacho to exit the
truck, informed him he was going to "run his [dog]"
around the truck, and patted Camacho down. During the pat
down, Camacho disclosed that he had approximately $1,500 in
his pocket, and he showed the "wad" of money to
Autery returned to his patrol vehicle to retrieve Suza. Agent
Autery walked Suza around Camacho's truck, and, according
to Agent Autery, the dog "alerted" on the
driver's side door area of the truck. Agent Autery
returned Suza to the patrol vehicle and explained to Camacho
that the dog had "alerted" and that, according to
Agent Autery, he had probable cause to search the truck.
Autery proceeded to search the truck, beginning on the
passenger side. After a few minutes, he proceeded to search
the driver's side of the truck. While searching near the
rear driver's side door, Agent Autery discovered a small,
bound stack of cash that "fell out" from the rear,
driver's side seat. He informed Camacho about the find,
handed the stack of cash to Camacho, and inquired why he had
not disclosed that he had the cash in the truck. Agent Autery
then returned to the truck to continue his search using a
camera he retrieved from his patrol vehicle. Agent Autery
located additional small, bound stacks of cash within the
rear driver's side seat. Agent Autery retrieved those
stacks of cash with the assistance of Agent Ken Delaney, who
had arrived at the scene.
$52,560 is the total cash retrieved from the truck and taken
from Camacho's person. During the search of the truck,
Agent Autery also seized three cellular telephones, two
purportedly owned by Camacho and one purportedly owned by
Hernandez. After completing his search, Agent Autery
instructed Camacho to drive the truck and to follow him to a
nearby highway exit, where they briefly stopped at a
convenience store; Agent Delaney followed Camacho in his
patrol vehicle. Thereafter, they proceeded to a police
station, where Camacho and Hernandez were interrogated. No
drugs, drug paraphernalia, or other contraband were recovered
from the truck or from Hernandez's or Camacho's
person, and no criminal charges were filed against Hernandez
or Camacho. Camacho and Hernandez were released the next day,
along with Camacho's truck.
April 4, 2017, the State filed a "Petition for
Condemnation" in the trial court. The State's
petition sought forfeiture of the $52,560, pursuant to Ala.
Code 1975, § 20-2-93; the petition included no request
for forfeiture of the three seized cellular telephones.
Camacho filed an answer to the State's petition, and, on
September 8, 2017, Camacho filed a motion for a summary
judgment. After conducting a hearing on Camacho's motion
for a summary judgment, the trial court entered an order
denying the motion.
October 17, 2018, the trial court held an ore tenus
proceeding on the State's forfeiture petition; Agent
Autery and Camacho testified at the trial. At the conclusion
of the evidence, Camacho made an oral motion for a judgment
as a matter of law; Camacho argued that the $52,560 had been
seized during an illegal search and that the State had failed
to present sufficient evidence to support a finding that the
$52,560 was proceeds from an illegal drug transaction. The
trial court did not enter an order directly addressing
Camacho's motion, and, on December 5, 2018, the trial
court entered a judgment declaring that the $52,560 at issue
was forfeited to the State. Thus, Camacho's motion for a
judgment as a matter of law was denied. The December 2018
"This cause came before the Court for hearing on the
pleadings and evidence presented ore tenus on the 17th day of
October 2018. Upon consideration of same, the Court hereby
finds that the Petition for Condemnation filed by the [State]
in this case is due to be GRANTED because the [State]
established by the evidence a prima facie case for the
forfeiture of the money pursuant to [§ ] 20-2-93 of the
Code of Alabama 1975. The standard of that prima facie proof
is reasonable satisfaction. "[Camacho] failed to show
that the money was not `derived from ... proceeds obtained
directly, or indirectly, from violation of any law of this
state concerning controlled substances.' Further, the
court finds that [Camacho] testified falsely and that his
testimony was unbelievable. Therefore, because [Camacho]
failed to testify truthfully to a material fact, the
testimony of [Camacho] is disregarded altogether. Costs are
taxed as paid."
appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court, which transferred the
appeal to this court, pursuant to § 12-2-7(6), Ala. Code
"On appellate review of a ruling from a forfeiture
proceeding at which the evidence was presented ore tenus,
the trial court's judgment is presumed to be correct
unless the record shows it to be contrary to the great
weight of the evidence." Ex parte McConathy,
911 So.2d 677, 681 (Ala. 2005).
"`"Under § 20-2-93 the State must
establish a prima facie case for the seizure, condemnation,
and forfeiture of the property. The standard of proof is
reasonable satisfaction. The statute is penal in nature and,
as such, should be strictly construed."'
Holloway[ v. State ex rel. Whetstone], 772 So.2d
[475,] 476 [(Ala.Civ.App. 2000)] (quoting State v.
Smith, 578 So.2d 1374, 1376 (Ala.Civ.App. 1991))."
McConathy, 911 So.2d at 681-82.
first note that we will not address three of Camacho's
arguments on appeal — ...