NEW ORLEANS — The Supreme Court of Louisiana has found that a lower court was wrong in ruling that a prisoner serving time on a drug conviction hadn't waited a full five years to seek return of $944 seized when he was arrested.
But the justices also held that the state could still request an order from a district court that the money be destroyed "provided the state can prove the money is contraband that has become so tainted with hazardous chemicals that its destruction is in the public interest, as the state alleged in district court," the ruling said.
In a per curiam order issued on April 7, the court held that there is no obligation for someone whose property was seized to wait five years to get it back.
It granted a petition for review by prisoner Roger Wallace, convicted in 2012 in St. Tammany Parish for manufacturing methamphetamine and sentenced to 25 years in prison at hard labor.
The high court indicated that rules governing property forfeiture are in Chapter 26 of the Seizure and Controlled Dangerous Substances Property Forfeiture Act. The "sole purpose" for granting Wallace's writ of certiorari was to transfer to the case to the district court at St. Tammany Parish to "reconsider its ruling and to construe the application as a motion for release of seized property pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 26," the ruling stated.
According to court documents, Wallace had been arrested outside of his home in Slidell after being surveilled. He was followed from a Wal-Mart to his home, where an arresting officer found a crack pipe in Wallace's hand and a shopping bag containing coffee filters, a funnel, four boxes of table salt, fuel, drain cleaner, a lighter, a grinder, Zyrtec D and batteries.
He told police that he purchased the items for another individual to cook methamphetamine, according to court documents.