A finding of bad faith is not required for a remedial jury instruction when the government’s negligent destruction of evidence significantly prejudices a defendant, the Ninth Circuit ruled earlier this month in its panel decision in United States v. Sivilla, No. 11-50484 (9th Cir. May 7, 2013) (Noonan, J.). However, bad faith—or a showing that the exculpatory nature of spoliated evidence was apparent to the government—remains necessary for complete dismissal under Arizona v. Youngblood, 488 U.S. 51 (1988).
In June 2010, Victor Hugo Sivilla loaned his Jeep to his sister’s boyfriend for several hours. Two days later, Sivilla was arrested after U.S. border agents found $160,000 worth of cocaine and heroin in his vehicle’s engine manifold. After photographing the Jeep’s engine compartment, the case agent turned the vehicle over to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) forfeiture section.