United States District Court, D. Colorado
ORDER ON MOTIONS IN LIMINE
CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on the Parties' Motions in
Limine. (Doc. ## 115, 116.) The Government filed a Response
(Doc. # 119) to Claimant Richard Schwabe's Motion on
November 14, 2019, and Claimant filed a Response (Doc. # 120)
to the Government's Motion on the same date. For the
following reasons, the Government's Motion is granted in
part and denied in part, and Claimant's Motion is denied.
civil forfeiture case arises from the Government's
seizure of the defendant currency during a search of
Claimant's property, which was conducted pursuant to a
valid search warrant. At issue is whether the
defendant currency “constitutes proceeds traceable to
the exchange of marijuana and, therefore, is subject to
forfeiture pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6).”
(Doc. # 111 at 2.)
Government alleges that Claimant had been cultivating
marijuana for at least a year prior to the seizure of the
defendant currency, and “the most likely source of
[the] defendant currency is from the sale and distribution of
marijuana . . . .” (Id.) Claimant, on the
other hand, alleges that the defendant currency has
legitimate sources. This case is set for a five-day jury
trial beginning on December 2, 2019.
Motions in Limine either seek to preclude evidence from being
admitted at trial or request that the Court rule in advance
on the admissibility of certain statements. The Court will
address the Government's Motion before turning to
THE GOVERNMENT'S MOTION
Government's Motion raises four separate arguments.
Specifically, the Government asserts that the following
evidence should be precluded: (1) issues regarding the
legality of the search of Claimant's property; (2)
arguments involving the disposition of the defendant currency
if the Government prevails at trial; (3) issues regarding
marijuana policy; and (4) arguments that could result in jury
nullification. The Court will analyze each argument in turn.
Issues Regarding the Legality of the Search of
Court has already determined that the search of
Claimant's property was lawful. (Doc. # 86.) As a
consequence, the Government argues that “it would serve
no useful or proper purpose for the jury to be informed . . .
that the address on the warrant was incorrect, the number of
officers present, that some officers were in camouflaged
attire and carrying firearms, or that Claimant . . .
allegedly felt intimidated.” (Doc. # 115 at 3.) In
response, Claimant indicates that he does not intend to
relitigate the legality of the search. Rather, Claimant
argues that information regarding the search is independently
relevant for two reasons.
Claimant asserts that if the Government introduces statements
that Claimant made during the search, information regarding
the manner in which officers executed the search is relevant
to Claimant's theory that his statements were made
because he felt intimidated. (Doc. # 120 at 2.) Second,
Claimant asserts that information regarding errors made by
the officer whose affidavit supported the search warrant is
relevant to attack the credibility of that officer's
observations during the search itself. (Id. at 2-3.)
The Court agrees with Claimant's first argument but not
his second argument.
is relevant if “it has any tendency to make a fact more
or less probable than it would be without the evidence”
and “the fact is of consequence in determining the
action.” Fed.R.Evid. 401. However, the Court may
exclude relevant evidence “if its probative value is
substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more of the
following: unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading
the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting
cumulative evidence.” Fed.R.Evid. 403.
regarding the manner in which officers executed the search
warrant is relevant. At issue is whether the defendant
currency constitutes proceeds of drug trafficking. If
Claimant made statements during the search of his property
that suggest that the defendant currency did constitute such
proceeds, Claimant could reasonably pursue the theory that he
made the statements because he felt intimidated and not
because they were true. If the statements were not true, the
jury could determine it is less likely that the defendant
currency constitutes proceeds of drug trafficking.
Importantly, even if Claimant made the statements in question
because he subjectively felt intimidated, that does not raise
a significant risk that the jury would reach the conclusion
that the search was unlawful.
contrast, there is a substantial danger that the jury could
mistakenly reach the conclusion that the search was somehow
invalid if Claimant presents evidence regarding errors in the
affidavit underlying the warrant. Although Claimant indicates
that the evidence would have the limited purpose of casting
doubt on the credibility of the officer who made the errors,
it is very likely that jurors could become confused as to
whether the errors invalidated the warrant. Additionally, a
limiting instruction would not sufficiently reduce the risk
of confusion because the introduction of the issue is
misleading and correcting the misimpression analogous to
unscrambling an egg.
the Government's Motion is granted to the extent that it
seeks to preclude evidence regarding errors in the search
warrant. However, the Motion is denied as to information
regarding the manner in which officers executed the search.
Arguments Involving the Disposition of the ...