Ramirez v. Tulare County District Attorney’s Office

Plaintiffs were not required to exhaust administrative remedies before suing county over nonjudicial forfeiture proceedings, since county had not complied with relevant statutes and therefore the forfeiture was void.  Plaintiffs sued for return of their property which the county had obtained through nonjudicial forfeiture proceedings that were not held in accordance with H&S Code 11488.4 because they were initiated by police rather than the district attorney or attorney general.  This decision holds that the trial court incorrectly sustained a demurrer to the complaint.  Plaintiffs were not required to exhaust administrative remedies in the nonjudicial forfeiture proceedings because those proceedings had not been conducted in accordance with the statute and were therefore void.  Plaintiffs also did not have to file a government claim before filing suit since their claim was not for money or damages but rather for return of specific property seized from them.  Finally, their claims were for return of property.  It was the defendant that had sought to exact a statutory penalty by forfeiting their property.  So plaintiffs’ claims for return of their property were not governed by the one-year limitations period for claims for a statutory penalty or forfeiture, but rather by the three-year statute for specific recovery of personal property.  And the three years began running only when plaintiffs demanded return of their property and were refused or when a repudiation of their title was unequivocally brought to their attention.

California Court of Appeal, Fifth District (Kane, J.); March 15, 2017; 2017 WL 1007953


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