Even before California voted to legalize marijuana completely, the state already legalized medicinal marijuana use. Some police and sheriffs departments continued to raid and close down marijuana dispensaries, claiming they operating outside the law. Now the San Diego District Attorney has been ordered to return the money taken from one dispensary over a year ago. Here’s what you should know about this case and the law in general thanks to top San Marcos criminal defense lawyer Peter M. Liss.
First, the assets the DA is being ordered to return aren’t even those that were seized at the dispensary, but instead over $100,000 that made up the life savings of dispensary owner James Slatic and his family. This money was taken under the law of civil asset forfeiture, which allows police to seize property that may have been related to criminal activities. Since the DA had not filed charges against Slatic at the time, a superior court judge ordered his money returned within five days.
Prosecutors will often seize assets they claim are associated with criminal activity without filing charges for the alleged crime. While California law allows for those who have been found of innocent or have not been charged with a crime within a reasonable amount of time to get their assets back, the process generally requires court appearances and the assistance of an experienced Rancho Bernardo criminal attorney.
If you have had personal property seized under civil asset forfeiture laws, Escondido criminal lawyer Peter M. Liss can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.
UPDATE: Like so many things in this world, it turns out this case was not as simple as it seemed at first glance. Since this article was originally written, the DA has filled charges not only against the dispensary owner for manufacturing hash oil or wax, but also against his attorney, who has been accused of obstruction of justice.
After the dispensary was raided over 18 months ago, Slatic’s lawyer allegedly told him to hide evidence that he was making hash oil and sent him an email stating that she tried to persuade the city that he wasn’t operating a dispensary, but a paper manufacturing plant. While the lawyer in North County is now claiming these were privileged communications, the DA will most likely argue that they show a conspiracy to obstruct justice and since (as we previously discussed) communications between an attorney and client are no longer privileged if the lawyer advises her client to commit a crime, this information could be entered into the public record for the case.
As for the money, while it has since been returned to Slatic, it may again be seized in light of these new charges. And while California’s marijuana legalization law passed in November of 2016 will make it legal to operate hash oil production facilities under specific regulations, it doesn’t change the fact that manufacturing it was absolutely illegal in 2015, so the new laws will make no change to the charges this dispensary owner and his lawyer may face.
Only time will tell what will happen in this case where the DA and the accused parties have such wildly differing accounts of the events in question.
Creative Commons Image by Pat (Cletch) Williams