Monday, Dec. 10, 2012 | 1:13 p.m.
CARSON CITY — A federal appeals court panel is giving a man another chance to prove in Las Vegas that he is the legal owner of $999,830 seized from the back of his rental car in August 2008.
The three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that District Court Judge Kent Dawson used the wrong standard in denying the claim that Michael Simard was entitled to the cash
Simard, who has a Canadian driver’s license, was stopped for speeding on Interstate 15 by the Nevada Highway Patrol. He said he was on a sightseeing tour and gave police permission to search the vehicle.
Patrol Sgt. Eric Kemmer searched the vehicle and found the money bundled in stacks in a duffle bag in the trunk. Simard initially denied any knowledge of the money, which was confiscated, was given a warning for speeding and released.
The government filed a complaint in January 2009 seeking forfeiture of the money, arguing there was evidence Simard was somehow involved in drug smuggling or carrying drug money.
Simard challenged the claim, asserting he is the rightful owner of the cash.
The panel of the appeals court held that Simard’s “unequivocal assertion of ownership” was enough to have further evidence produced at the early stages of the case to determine his claim.
The panel sent the case back to Dawson for further hearings on the ownership issue.