Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton
IN RE: $593 U.S. CURRENCEY SEIZED FROM NOAH MOORE
Appeal From: Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas TRIAL NO.
T. Deters, Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney, and Jeremiah
Seebohm, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for
Raymond T. Faller, Hamilton County Public Defender, and David
H. Hoffman, for Appellant.
The primary issue in this case is whether an interested
party's actual notice of a pending forfeiture action
renders strict compliance with the notice requirement in
former R.C. 2981.05(B) unnecessary. Following Ohio Supreme
Court precedent, we hold that it does not. See Ohio Dept.
of Liquor Control v. Sons of Italy Lodge 0917, 65 Ohio
St.3d 532, 605 N.E.2d 368 (1992), syllabus. However, our
holding does not entitle Moore to the funds at this time
because provisional title remains with the state. See
State v. North, 2012-Ohio-5200, 980 N.E.2d 566, ¶
12 (1st Dist.).
Noah Moore was indicted for trafficking in cocaine. He
entered a guilty plea to a reduced charge of attempted
possession of cocaine.
The state subsequently filed a civil action, requesting the
forfeiture of $593 seized by law enforcement officials from
Moore's home at 3111 Dresher Drive. The state attempted
certified mail service on Moore at that address. The
certified mail was returned as undeliverable. The state also
attempted personal service, but failed.
Despite the lack of service, Moore became aware of the
forfeiture proceeding. He filed an "answer" to the
state's complaint, in which he raised the affirmative
defense of insufficiency of process under Civ.R. 12(B)(4). By
statute, Moore should have filed a "petition"
instead of an "answer." See former R.C.
2981.05(C). Further, it appears that Moore intended to raise
the defense of insufficiency of service of process under
Civ.R. 12(B)(5), instead of insufficiency of process under
Civ.R. 12(B)(4). These procedural deficiencies were never
Moore later moved the trial court for summary judgment under
Civ.R. 56(C), asking the court to dismiss the complaint with
prejudice for failing to perfect service. In his motion,
Moore claimed that the trial court was without jurisdiction
to proceed because he had not been served by certified mail
or by personal service, in accordance with the mandates of
the forfeiture statute.
A magistrate conducted a hearing on Moore's summary
judgment motion and denied it. Moore did not object to the
decision within 14 days, as set forth in Civ.R. 53, and the
trial court adopted the magistrate's decision.
The case proceeded to a forfeiture hearing before a
magistrate. Moore appeared and participated. Following the
hearing, the magistrate ordered the money forfeited. Moore
timely objected, arguing: (1) the trial court lacked
subject-matter jurisdiction because Moore had never been
properly served; and (2) the state failed to meet its burden
to prove that the money was subject to forfeiture based on
the commission of a trafficking offense. The trial court
overruled these objections and adopted the magistrate's
decision as a judgment of the court. This appeal followed.
In his first assignment of error, Moore contends that the
trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to order a
forfeiture because the state had not strictly complied with
the notice requirements of former R.C. 2981.05(B). He claims
that the court's judgment was void ab initio, and ...