and ( 2) Do the findings support the
conclusion that forfeiture is proper?
The court noted that reviewing
courts look to the record of the initial
forfeiture hearing and do not reweigh
evidence or determine credibility in appeals from forfeiture decisions; however, neither shall reviewing courts "auto-matically affirm the hearing examiner's
decision..." Id. at 612. Appellate courts
must be "satisfied that the seizing law
enforcement agency presented 'a sufficient quantity of evidence to persuade
a fair-minded person of the truth or
correctness of the [hearing examiner's]
order,'” and “the claimant must carry
the burden of showing otherwise." Id.
Applying this standard of review, the
Supreme Court found that the hearing
record did not support the examiner's
finding number 4 that, "Officers testified
the cash was 'coated' by enough cocaine
so that the drug dog also alerted to
the cash." Placing the word "coated" in
quotes in the finding implied that the
amount of controlled substance on the
money found was significantly greater
than might be present on money that
had not been used in a drug transaction.
In fact, there was no testimony that the
money was "coated" in anything, and
there was no evidence the money was
ever tested for the presence of a specific
drug. Id. at 613-615.
While this may seem like a small
distinction, the hearing examiner’s
choice of the word "coated" is significant when taken in context of
this preliminary finding as a whole.
The finding is not simply that the
canine alerted to the money or that
one could reasonably infer that the
canine alerted to the money because
there was some controlled substance on it. Rather, the finding indicates that the hearing examiner believed that the amount of controlled
substances on Gonzalez’s money
was significantly greater than one
would find on money that had not
been used in a drug transaction. . . .
There was no evidence presented to
support such a finding.
Id. at 614-615.
The court noted that the hearing
examiner found Mr. Gonzalez's testimony
was not credible and deferred to that
finding. The court also acknowledged that
credibility determinations, coupled with
the other findings, could lead to a reasonable inference that the car and money
were obtained through some unlawful
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