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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. ONE 1985 CADILLAC SEVILLE. APPEAL SHIELA LAMPKIN (02/26/88)

filed: February 26, 1988.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
ONE 1985 CADILLAC SEVILLE. APPEAL OF SHIELA LAMPKIN, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Order entered on March 10, 1987, in the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, Criminal Division, at No. 819 Misc. 1986.

COUNSEL

Richard R. Fink, Levittown, for appellant.

Stephen B. Harris, Assistant District Attorney, Warrington, for Com., appellee.

Cavanaugh, Beck and Hester, JJ.

Author: Beck

[ 517 Pa. Page 392]

The issue in this forfeiture action is the standing of the appellant to challenge the forfeiture of the subject vehicle by raising the "innocent ownership" defense.

Appellant Sheila Lampkin appeals from an order granting the Commonwealth's petition for forfeiture and denying her petition for return of a 1985 Cadillac Seville. We affirm.

The Cadillac was seized when Frank Long, Lampkin's brother, was operating the Cadillac while conducting a drug transaction with a passenger therein. Long was charged with and later convicted of possession with intent to deliver cocaine and heroin, which were found in and around the Cadillac at the time of seizure. Lampkin filed a petition seeking return of the Cadillac which she claims to own. The Commonwealth responded by filing a petition for forfeiture, contending that the Cadillac was "derivative contraband" subject to forfeiture under the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, 35 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. §§ 780-101 to 780-144 (1977 & Supp.1987-88) (the "Act").

At the forfeiture hearing, Lampkin testified that she was Long's older sister, that she was the owner of the Cadillac, and that she loaned the vehicle to Long from time to time. She produced documents of title and registration bearing her name to establish that she owned the Cadillac. Lampkin also testified that she had paid cash for the car, and that although Long had accompanied her to the dealership when she purchased the car, he went with her only for the limited purpose of checking the car's mechanical condition.

Lampkin further testified that although she lent the Cadillac to her brother on occasion, she was unaware that the vehicle was being used for any unlawful purpose. It was established that she and her brother lived some distance apart and that in order to borrow the Cadillac, Long

[ 517 Pa. Page 393]

    had to pick it up at her home. It was also established that Long performed routine maintenance work on the Cadillac.

The trial court determined that the Commonwealth had satisfied its burden of proof in showing that the Cadillac was used by Long for unlawful purposes and, therefore, was "derivative contraband" subject to forfeiture under the Act. Id. § 780-128. The trial court also rejected Lampkin's contention that under Section 780-128 of the Act, she was entitled to return of the Cadillac because she owned it and was unaware of her brother's unlawful use thereof. In support of this conclusion, the court stated that it simply did not believe Lampkin's testimony regarding her acquisition and ownership of the car. The court noted that the car was purchased for approximately $30,000 in cash and that the record revealed no source of funds from which Lampkin could have obtained that large a sum of money to use in purchasing the car. The court emphasized that Lampkin is a divorced mother who is the sole support of three children and that there was no evidence of any inheritance or other windfall that could have provided the funds for the purchase of the Cadillac.

In addition, the court pointed out that although the documents of title were in Lampkin's name, Lampkin had produced no documentary evidence showing withdrawals of bank deposits, conversion of securities or any other source of the cash allegedly used by Lampkin to buy the car. Concluding that Frank Long had actually purchased the car and had simply titled it in his sister's name to insulate it from forfeiture, the court granted the Commonwealth's petition for forfeiture and denied Lampkin's petition for return.

Lampkin presents two issues for our review. First, she asserts that the trial court erred by admitting into evidence the testimony of a police officer regarding the contents of a report of a chemical analysis of the substances seized from the Cadillac at the time of Long's arrest and the seizure of the vehicle. Lampkin ...


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