Opinion No. 72
from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District,
State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. D. Duff McKee, District
in civil forfeiture action, vacated and remanded.
Bennetts, Ada County Prosecuting Attorney; Catherine A.
Freeman, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Boise, for appellant.
Miller & Hawkins, LLC; Joseph C. Miller, Boise, for
MELANSON, Chief Judge.
County Prosecuting Attorney appeals from judgment in a civil
forfeiture action in favor of William Scott DeMint. For the
reasons set forth below, we vacate the judgment and remand.
was stopped for speeding and failure to signal on August 20,
2014. A subsequent search of DeMint's vehicle revealed
controlled substances, paraphernalia, and money. Following
DeMint's arrest, Ada County filed an in rem
complaint alleging DeMint's vehicle and all items found
therein were subject to forfeiture pursuant to I.C. §
37-2744(d)(1). Additionally, Ada County alleged that $9,
415.64 in DeMint's bank account was subject to forfeiture
because it was used or intended for use in connection with
the illegal manufacturing, distribution, dispensing, or
possession of the controlled substances found in DeMint's
vehicle. Ada County obtained a warrant to seize $9, 415.64
from DeMint's bank account and obtained the funds in the
form of a cashier's check. At trial, the district court
determined that the bank funds were not subject to forfeiture
and granted a motion for directed verdict in favor of DeMint.
Ada County appeals.
at the outset that, because this was a court trial rather
than a trial by jury, the proper motion was one for
involuntary dismissal. Durrant v. Quality First
Marketing, Inc., 127 Idaho 558, 559, 903 P.2d 147, 148
(Ct. App. 1995). We therefore treat the district court's
ruling as a grant of a motion for involuntary dismissal.
Review of the district court's decision is limited to
ascertaining whether the evidence supports the findings of
fact and whether the findings of fact support the conclusions
of law. Conley v. Whittlesey, 133 Idaho 265, 269,
985 P.2d 1127, 1131 (1999). The grant of a motion for
involuntary dismissal is subject to the substantial evidence
test. Hibbler v. Fisher, 109 Idaho 1007, 1010, 712
P.2d 708, 711 (Ct. App. 1985).
substantial evidence test requires that the evidence be of
sufficient quantity and probative value that reasonable minds
could conclude that a verdict against the nonmoving party is
proper. General Auto Parts Co., Inc. v. Genuine Parts
Co., 132 Idaho 849, 855, 979 P.2d 1207, 1213 (1999). The
findings and judgment of a trial court made upon conflicting
evidence will not be disturbed where there is substantial
evidence to support them. Chamberlin v. George, 63
Idaho 658, 669, 125 P.2d 307, 311 (1942). This Court defers
to findings of fact based upon substantial evidence, but we
review freely the conclusions of law reached by stating legal
rules or principles and applying them to the facts found.
Staggie v. Idaho Falls Consol. Hosps., Inc., 110
Idaho 349, 351, 715 P.2d 1019, 1021 (Ct. App. 1986).
Code Section 37-2744 subjects to forfeiture all property
which has been used or intended for use in connection with
the illegal manufacture, distribution, dispensing, or
possession of controlled substances. Forfeiture proceedings
are civil actions against the property subject to forfeiture
and the standard of proof is preponderance of the evidence.
I.C. § 37-2744(d). A preponderance of the evidence means
that the evidence shows something to be more probably true
than not. In re Beyer, 155 Idaho 40, 45, 304 P.3d
1206, 1211 (Ct. App. 2013).
case, the district court concluded that Ada County did not
meet its burden of proving that the funds in DeMint's
bank account were more likely than not used or intended for
use in connection with drug trafficking. Ada County
introduced evidence that DeMint was a drug trafficker and
that, while he was in jail, he asked two people to divert
money from his bank account. In one telephone call, DeMint
told a person to withdraw the money in DeMint's account,
give half to someone named Linda, and put the other half on
DeMint's books. In a second call, DeMint instructed
another person to withdraw the money and transfer it to
someone of her choosing. In both calls, DeMint expressed
concern that the money might be seized; although, in one of
the calls, DeMint stated that he "could prove the
income." Additionally, Ada County established that
DeMint made three large deposits in the months leading up to
his arrest and that he was unemployed on the day he was
County also established that a number of large cash
withdrawals from the account occurred throughout the month
before his arrest and that the withdrawals were approximately
equal to the value of the methamphetamine DeMint possessed
upon his arrest. Finally, Ada County established that, on the
date of DeMint's arrest, there was a purchase from the
account at a restaurant in Ogden, Utah, in the amount of
$43.27 and that a detective had knowledge that DeMint was
meeting with his drug dealer in Ogden on that date. Ada
County argued that DeMint's desire to move the funds from
his account indicated they were used in connection with drug
trafficking. Ada County asserted that the large deposits were
connected to drug trafficking because DeMint was unemployed
when he was arrested. Finally, Ada County argued that the
restaurant purchase from DeMint's account in Ogden on the
same day he was meeting with his supplier indicated that the
bank funds were used in connection with drug trafficking.
appeal, Ada County contends that the district court's
application of the preponderance of the evidence standard was
flawed. Specifically, Ada County argues that, while the
district court stated it was applying the preponderance of
the evidence standard, it actually applied a more stringent
standard. Indeed, the district court reasoned that there were
"too many holes" in Ada County's argument. For
example, the district court largely relied on Ada
County's failure to eliminate other possible sources of
the large deposits. The district court also indicated that
Ada County's failure to trace the funds was fatal to its
argument. However, Ada County was not required to disprove
all explanations that could potentially contradict its
argument. Ada County was only required to establish that it
was more likely than not that the bank funds were used or
intended for use in connection with drug trafficking. We
agree that the district court's application of the
preponderance of the evidence ...