Forfeiture. Chatham Superior Court. Before Judge Walmsley.
Randall A. Schmidt, for appellant.
Meg E. Heap, District Attorney, Brian M. Casey, Assistant District Attorney, for appellee.
In this civil forfeiture case pursuant to OCGA § 16-13-49, the trial court granted the State of Georgia's motion to strike the answers of Christopher S. Crimley (" Crimley" ) and his wife and entered an order of disposition and distribution of the seized property. Crimley appeals, asserting that he had no fair opportunity to respond to the [330 Ga.App. 640] motion to strike, that service of the motion was inadequate, and that his answer was sufficient. We find his answer sufficient to withstand a motion to strike under the authority of Williams v. State of Ga., 222 Ga.App. 270 (474 S.E.2d 98) (1996). We therefore reverse the trial court's order striking Crimley's answer and making disposition of the property and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
The record shows that on November 8, 2013, the State of Georgia filed an in rem " Complaint for Forfeiture" against approximately $18,000 and a Cadillac DeVille, alleging that the property was seized by police during execution of a search warrant on September
12, 2013. The State requested a disposition hearing 60 days after service of the complaint. OCGA § 16-13-49 (o) (5) provides: " If an answer is filed, a hearing must be held within 60 days after service of the complaint unless continued for good cause and must be held by the court without a jury." There is no rule nisi in the file, but after the State filed its motion to strike the answers and for disposition, the trial court continued the hearing " for good cause" to January 16, 2014, finding that the State's motions were " potentially dispositive." 
After the hearing, the trial court found:
[T]he answers submitted provide insufficient detail, and do not provide the State the statutorily required information necessary to expedite the forfeiture proceedings. If a Claimant fails to comply with the strict pleading requirements of OCGA § 16-13-49 by not providing required particularized details, this failure supports a trial court's ruling that the claimant's answer is deficient. A property owner's rights to seized property are dependent upon the filing of a statutorily sufficient claim to the property in response to the notice of forfeiture.
(Citations and punctuation omitted.) This appeal followed.
OCGA § 16-13-49 (o) (3) provides:
An owner of or interest holder in the property may file an answer asserting a claim against the property in the [330 Ga.App. 641] action in rem. Any such answer shall be filed within 30 days after the service of the summons and complaint. Where service is made by publication and personal service has not been made, an owner or interest holder shall file an answer within 30 days of the date of final publication. An answer must be verified by the owner or interest holder under penalty of ...