The opinion of the court was delivered by: DUSEN
This suit was instituted through the filing of a libel by the United States of America for the forfeiture of a certain 1955 Ford Convertible under the provisions of 49 U.S.C.A. § 781 and 782. Mary Bonavitacola, the registered owner of the car,
and the Broad Street Trust Company, the holder of a security interest,
have both filed claims. The trial was held on December 20, 1955. John Bonavitacola, son of Mary Bonavitacola, was in court with his mother throughout the entire trial, but did not take the stand to refute the testimony of the two Philadelphia police officers who testified for the Government. There was no evidence of any sort offered by the claimant as to the circumstances of the arrest.
Specific Findings of Fact
1. On September 26, 1955, on or about 2:30 P.M., police officers of the City of Philadelphia arrested John Bonavitacola at the intersection of Broad and Morris Streets, Philadelphia, Pa.
2. Directly prior to the arrest, said Bonavitacola was observed by the officers while he was backing a certain yellow 1955 Ford Convertible, Serial No. U5NC 146855 (owned by Mary Bonavitacola), into a parking space at the east curb of Broad Street. The vehicle and driver were under constant surveillance by the officers from the time that the automobile was moved into the parking space until the time of the arrest, during which time Bonavitacola did not leave the automobile.
4. Neither the match book cover, the silver foil or any part of the package described in paragraph 3 above contained Internal Revenue Stamps, representing payment of the federal tax imposed upon narcotic drugs.
5. Since John Bonavitacola was in the vehicle from the time the officers saw him moving it into the parking place until the package was thrown from it, the heroin described in paragraph 3 above was concealed, transported, and possessed in the above-mentioned 1955 Ford Convertible.
6. There may be in the Philadelphia area at this time heroin which was imported in this country prior to 1925 which could be legally sold if the appropriate Revenue Stamps were affixed to the package and the other legal requirements appropriate to the particular sale (for example, a doctor's prescription) were met. The amount of narcotics in the above-mentioned powder constituted only one dose.
1. The package containing 1.7 grains of heroin is a contraband article within the meaning of 49 U.S.C.A. § 781(b)(1), since it contains a narcotic drug which was acquired and possessed in violation of 26 U.S.C.A. §§ 4701 and 4704 and 21 U.S.C.A. § 174.
2. The vehicle in question, having been used in the transportation, concealment and possession of the said contraband article, is subject to seizure and forfeiture in accordance with 49 U.S.C.A. § 782.
3. Under the provisions of 19 U.S.C.A. § 1615, the burden of proof is upon the claimants once the Government has shown probable cause for the institution of the suit.
In the instant case, probable cause was shown and the claimants offered no evidence with reference to the circumstances of the seizure, and therefore have not sustained their burden of proof.
4. The innocence of both claimants, to wit: the owner and the lien holder, does not preclude forfeiture of the vehicle in question.
The Federal appellate courts have consistently held that proceedings for forfeiture such as this are directed against the vehicle itself and the divesting of any innocent lien holder's interest in the vehicle is not unconstitutional. See J. W. Goldsmith, Jr.-Grant Co. v. United States, 1921, 254 U.S. 505, 510-512, 41 S. Ct. 189, 65 L. Ed. 376; General Motors Acceptance Corp. v. United States, 1932, 286 U.S. 49, 57, 52 S. Ct. 468, 76 L. Ed. 971; United States v. ...