The PA Superior Court has decided the case of Commonwealth v. Jayson Rodriguez A/K/A Daniel Franciso Guerrero A/K/A : Javier Guerrero, No. 3119 EDA 2016 (October 23, 2017), holding that it was error for the trial court not to hold an evidentiary hearing and properly fulfill its fact-finding duties regarding Appellant’s Motion to Return Property.

Appellant was arrested and subsequently filed a pro se Motion to Return Property, alleging that he was subject to the illegal and impermissible forfeiture and seizure of his personal property, including some bank account proceeds.

Without holding an evidentiary hearing, the trial court dismissed Appellant’s motion for return of property on the basis that it appeared that the Commonwealth had not seized any of Appellant’s property. In doing so, the trial court indicated that “the District Attorney’s Office has advised me that the Commonwealth did not seize any money from Appellant’s bank account.”

Although noting that Appellant would not be entitled to the relief if the Commonwealth were to show it is not in possession of the bank funds at issue, the Superior Court nonetheless found that the trial court failed to follow proper procedure when it failed to hold an evidentiary hearing on the issue.

The Superior Court noted that appellate courts have recognized the importance of an evidentiary hearing when considering a petition for the return of property. Additionally, the applicable statute concerning Motions to Return Property require that an evidentiary hearing be held. And, in the instant case, the trial court dismissed the matter based solely on the trial court’s informal inquiry. Thus, “Appellant never had the opportunity to respond to the Commonwealth’s informal assertion, let alone present his case in an effort to meet his initial burden of proving entitlement to lawful possession of property seized by the Commonwealth.”

Accordingly, the Order was vacated and case remanded for the appropriate hearing.


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