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United States v. Real Property Located at 25445 Via Dona Christa

March 03, 1998

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
REAL PROPERTY LOCATED AT 25445 VIA DONA CHRISTA, VALENCIA, CALIFORNIA, DEFENDANT, AND RAMDAS P. GUPTA, CLAIMANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California William J. Rea, District Judge, Presiding Argued and Submitted November 5, 1997--Pasadena, California

D.C. No. CV-89-05586-WJR

Before: Floyd R. Gibson, *fn1 Alex Kozinski, and Stephen S. Trott, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Trott

FOR PUBLICATION

SUMMARY

TROTT, Circuit Judge:

OVERVIEW

Ramdas Gupta, Claimant-Appellant, appeals the civil forfeiture of his real property pursuant to 21 U.S.C.S 881(a)(7) (1994). Claimant's property was seized in connection with continuous drug sales and activity.

Claimant argues that the district court erred in reinstating civil forfeiture of his property, because the forfeiture was an excessive fine under the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. We respectfully disagree. Forfeiture was appropriate. The government met its burden by showing Claimant's property was an instrumentality in his crimes. Furthermore, Claimant failed to show the forfeiture was disproportionate to his culpability.

The additional issues raised by Claimant are precluded from review. The district court's reinstatement of forfeiture is affirmed.

BACKGROUND

Claimant and his family have been arrested for selling and possessing drugs for sale on several occasions. Each incident was directly or indirectly related to the property. Therefore, the government seized Claimant-Appellant's house and property pursuant to 21 U.S.C. S 881(a)(7), which allows civil forfeiture of property used in any part or manner to facilitate drug-related crimes.

On January 14, 1986, Claimant was arrested for selling marijuana. Responding to a tip, the police observed him making a drug deal in a store parking lot. The police had information that Claimant took telephone orders for drugs on his home telephone and then delivered the drugs to the buyers at the store parking lot. They searched his vehicle and found empty baggies, a pipe, a baggie containing marijuana, the money Claimant received from the observed sale, and more marijuana in Claimant's briefcase in the trunk of the car. When the police investigated Claimant, Claimant's daughter's boyfriend gave them a list of Claimant's drug clients obtained from inside the house. The boyfriend said Claimant had been selling drugs since Raj Gupta, his son, had been imprisoned four months earlier.

On August 20, 1987, Claimant was arrested again for selling marijuana. Police had received a tip that Claimant was selling marijuana daily. They used a cooperating witness to make a drug buy. Claimant met the witness at a shopping center parking lot after he took her order over his home telephone. The police witnessed the sale and arrested Claimant shortly thereafter. Policed seized a baggie of marijuana from his car. Claimant confirmed he had been selling marijuana since his son went to prison. He pled nolo contendere, which is the same as a guilty plea in California. Cal. Penal Code S 1016(c) (1985).

On January 6, 1989, the police executed a search warrant to search Claimant's home. Probable cause for the search warrant was based on the following information:

1) A reliable citizen-informant witnessed Claimant selling drugs and wrote down the license plate number of the car;

2) The police officer checking the license plate number recognized Claimant's name from the first arrest;

3) The same officer checked Claimant's record and discovered Claimant's ...


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