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State v. $3260.00 United States Currency

Supreme Court of North Dakota

May 8, 2018

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellant
v.
$3260.00 United States Currency; Ronald Newhauser, Defendants

          Appeal from the District Court of Morton County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable Bruce A. Romanick, Judge.

          Chase R. Lingle, Morton County Assistant State's Attorney, Mandan, ND, for plaintiff and appellant.

          Ronald Newhauser, defendant; no appearance.

          OPINION

          Jensen, Justice.

         [¶ 1] The State appeals from the district court's order granting summary judgment to Ronald Newhauser in a forfeiture proceeding. We affirm the district court's order.

         I

         [¶ 2] In February 2015, officers seized $3, 260 in United States currency from Newhauser. Newhauser was a passenger in a vehicle where police discovered methamphetamine and other paraphernalia. Newhauser was charged in connection with this stop in district court, but those charges were later dismissed because of federal charges relating to the incident against Newhauser.

         [¶ 3] The State served Newhauser in this forfeiture action in September 2017. Newhauser moved for summary judgment, which he supported with an affidavit. In his affidavit, Newhauser admits the $3, 260 was in his wallet and officers seized it as part of the traffic stop. Newhauser also said he obtained the $3, 260 from his social security disability income and savings from working occasionally for a contractor. The State responded to Newhauser's motion, but it did not support its response with any affidavits or other evidence. In its response, the State argued Newhauser raised factual questions through his affidavit requiring an evidentiary hearing. The State never scheduled a hearing on the motion for summary judgment.

         [¶ 4] The district court granted Newhauser's motion for summary judgment. The district court noted the State and Newhauser's arguments regarding the promptness of the action and lack of significant nexus between the property seized and offense committed. But the district court concluded the State failed to rebut any facts set forth by Newhauser in his affidavit. Because the State failed to present any evidence that created a genuine dispute of material fact, the district court granted Newhauser's motion for summary judgment without holding a hearing. The district court entered a judgment requiring the State to return the $3, 260 to Newhauser. The State appeals.

         II

         [¶ 5] On appeal, the State argues the district court erred by not holding an evidentiary hearing on the forfeiture and granting Newhauser's motion for summary judgment. This Court reviews orders on motions for summary judgment as follows:

In determining whether summary judgment was appropriately granted, we must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, and that party will be given the benefit of all favorable inferences which can reasonably be drawn from the record. On appeal, this Court decides whether the information available to the district court precluded the existence of a genuine issue of material fact and entitled the moving party to judgment as a matter of law.

Hokanson v. Zeigler, 2017 ND 197, ¶ 14, 900 N.W.2d 48 (quoting Tibert v. Nodak Mut. Ins. Co., 2012 ND 81, ¶ 8, 816 N.W.2d 31). This Court has noted:

The party moving for summary judgment has the burden of demonstrating there is no genuine issue of material fact. The party opposing the motion for summary judgment cannot rest upon mere allegations or denials in the pleadings, but must respond, showing there is a genuine issue for trial. Even if factual disputes exist between the parties, summary judgment is ...

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