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Washington v. Catlett

filed: May 30, 1996.

STATE OF WASHINGTON, APPELLANT,
v.
MARY CATHERINE CATLETT, AKA MARY C. PLATA, RESPONDENT.



Appeal from SUPERIOR COURT SPOKANE COUNTY. Superior Court No: 94-1-01196-1. Date filed in Superior Court: 12/16/94. Superior Court Judge signing: MICHAEL DONOHUE.

Author: Philip J. Thompson, Concurring: Dennis J. Sweeney & John A. Schultheis

Author: Thompson

THOMPSON, J. -- The State of Washington appeals an order dismissing its criminal prosecution of Mary Catherine Catlett, whose car was seized in a previous civil forfeiture action. The State argues the court erred in concluding a criminal punishment would violate Ms. Catlett's

rights against double jeopardy. We disagree, and affirm the dismissal.

In January 1994, a Spokane police hearing officer ordered forfeiture of Ms. Catlett's 1982 Plymouth automobile pursuant to RCW 69.50.505(a). The hearing officer found Ms. Catlett (aka Mary C. Plata) drove the car during a controlled crack cocaine transaction on October 25, 1993. The car was seized on November 19, 1993, during a search of a Spokane residence.*fn1 The hearing officer concluded Ms. Catlett "is involved in the sale of drugs and her vehicle as used in the sale of drugs."

In June 1994, the State charged Ms. Catlett with delivery of a controlled substance, RCW 69.50.401(a), on the basis of the controlled transaction on October 25, 1993. Ms. Catlett moved to dismiss the charge, arguing double jeopardy barred the criminal prosecution because of the previous civil forfeiture. The superior court agreed and dismissed the charge.

The double jeopardy clauses of the state and federal constitutions bar multiple punishments for the same offense.*fn2 U.S. Const. amend. V; Const. art. I, ยง 9; United States v. Halper, 490 U.S. 435, 440, 109 S. Ct. 1892, 104 L. Ed. 2d 487 (1989); State v. Cole, 128 Wash. 2d 262, 273-74, 906 P.2d 925 (1995). The application of these provisions in

the civil forfeiture arena is in "ferment." Cole, 128 Wash. 2d at 273.*fn3

Despite this uncertainty, two recent decisions by the Washington Supreme Court appear to resolve the issues in this case. In State v. Clark, 124 Wash. 2d 90, 95, 875 P.2d 613 (1994), law enforcement authorities instituted a forfeiture action against various property. Clark, 124 Wash. 2d at 94-95 n.1. The State forfeited the defendants' home*fn4 and vehicle.*fn5 Clark, 124 Wash. 2d at 94-95 n.1. The defendants also were convicted of unlawful possession with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance, RCW 69.50.401(a). Clark, 124 Wash. 2d at 95.

On appeal, the defendants then argued the civil forfeiture and criminal prosecution violated their rights against double jeopardy. Clark, 124 Wash. 2d at 95. The Supreme Court held forfeitures under RCW 69.50.505(a)(4) and (8) are "punishment" for purposes of double jeopardy analysis. Clark, 124 Wash. 2d at 96-101.*fn6

The forfeiture problem arose again in Cole, in which a seriously divided Supreme Court decided two consolidated cases. In one case, ...


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