Facts: After petitioner Alan Roos’s son was arrested for drug trafficking while using Roos’s automobile, the respondent Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force seized the automobile pursuant to Washington Revised Code §69.50.505, which authorizes the seizure of property used to facilitate the illegal sale, delivery, or receipt of controlled substances. Roos appealed the seizure to the Superior Court for Snohomish County, asserting that he was an innocent owner under §69.50.505 insofar as he had no actual knowledge of the illegal use of his automobile. The superior court affirmed the lawfulness of the seizure, holding that the relevant standard in determining whether Roos was an innocent owner was whether he knew or should have known that the automobile was being used to facilitate drug trafficking and that Roos should have known that his son was using the automoble to transport drugs. Upon appeal, the Washington Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision. Roos appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of Washington.
Question(s): Is a lack of actual knowledge sufficient for the innocent owner exception to §69.50.505 to apply?
Conclusion: Justice Charles W. Johnson’s opinion for the Court reversed the Washington Court of Appeals, ruling that the term knowledge in §69.50.505 signifies actual knowledge that one’s property is being used to facilitate drug trafficking. Thus, as Roos lacked actual knowledge that his son was using his automobile to engage in drug trafficking, the Court vacated the seizure.
Petitioner: In re the forfeiture of one: 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle (WLN CV02849); In re the forfeiture of one: 2004 Nissan Sentra (WLN 937SRL)
Respondent: Snohomish County Reg'l Drug Task Force
Argument: Thursday, February 26, 2009 2:30pm
[Source: TVW, http://tvw.org]
Audio: Washington Supreme Court
Decided: Thursday, September 3rd, 2009
Prevailing Party: Snohomish County Reg'l Drug Task Force (Respondent)
Note: We post only slip opinion(s) as published at the time of the decision. Please consult Washington Reports printed volumes for the opinion(s) in their final form. Each opinion should appear next to the Justice who authored it.