United States v. Gladding

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 12-31-2014
  • Case #: 12-10544
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Bea for the Court; Circuit Judges O'Scannlain and Fernandez.
  • Full Text Opinion

When an individual has pleaded guilty, the burden falls on the government to demonstrate a legitimate reason for retaining the individuals property.

Following Justin Paul Gladding’s (“Gladding”) indictment for possessing child pornography, he attempted to negotiate with the government to have his noncontraband computer files returned to him. Failed negotiations with the government led Gladding to file two Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g) motions in subsequent attempts to secure his computer files. In hearings on the motions, the district court denied the motions reasoning that separating the noncontraband files from contraband ones was too costly. Gladding appealed the denial. Under a 41(g) motion, “a person aggrieved…by the deprivation of property may move for the property’s return.” Under United States v. Martinson “[t]he defendant ‘is presumed to have a right to [the property’s] return, and the government has the burden of demonstrating that it has a legitimate reason to retain the property.” Here, the burden of proof for the 41(g) motion falls on the government since Gladding had already pleaded guilty when he filed his motion. However, the district court incorrectly placed the burden of proof on Gladding. The government’s legitimate reason for not returning Gladding’s files was that it was too costly, but the government never submitted any evidence of the difficulty or cost of separating of the files. Therefore, the government could not have met its burden had the district court correctly placed the burden of proof on the government and the denial of Gladding’s 41(g) motion is REVERSED AND REMANDED.

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