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G.R. No. 79021 May 17, 1993 ROMEO S. CHUA, petitioner, vs. THE HON.

COURT OF APPEALS, DENNIS CANOY AND ALEX DE LEON, respondents. FACTS: 1. Judge Lauro V. Francisco RTC Cebu branch 8, after examining 2Lt. Dennis P. Canoy and two (2) other witnesses, issued a search warrant directing the immediate search of the premises of R.R. Construction located at M.J. Cuenco Avenue, Cebu City, and the seizure of an Isuzu dump truck with plate number GAP-175. At twelve noon of the same date, respondent Canoy seized the aforesaid vehicle and took custody thereof. 2. RTC cebu branch 13: ACTION FOR Replevin/Sum of Money for the recovery of possession of the same Isuzu dump truck was filed by petitioner against respondent Canoy and one "John Doe" 3. petitioner questioned the validity of the search warrant and the subsequent seizure of the subject vehicle on the strength of the aforesaid search warrant. 4. Writ of REPLEVIN ISSUED 5. Canoy filed a motion for the dismissal of the complaint and for the quashal of the writ of replevin DENIED. MR- DENIED: CA: Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition praying for the nullification of the orders 6. Carnapping case was provisionally dismissed upon motion of Romeo Chua with the following reservation: "without prejudice to its reopening once the issue of ownership is resolved" 7. CA reversed RTC decision - directed that possession of the subject vehicle be restored to Canoy 8. SC certiorari. ISSUE: WON RTC erred when it ordered the transfer of possession of the property seized to petitioner when the latter filed the action for replevin HELD: 1. It is a basic tenet of civil procedure that replevin will not lie for property in custodia legis. A thing is in custodia legis when it is shown that it has been and is subjected to the official custody of a judicial executive officer in pursuance of his execution of a legal writ. The reason posited for this principle is that if it was otherwise, there would be interference with the possession before the function of the law had been performed as to the process under which the property was taken. Thus, a defendant in an execution or attachment cannot replevy goods in the possession of an officer under a valid process, although after the levy is discharged, an action to recover possession will lie. Construing the Pagkalinawan case together with the Vlasons case, we rule that where personal property is seized under a search warrant and there is reason to believe that the seizure will not anymore be followed by the filing of a criminal and there are conflicting claims over the seized property, the proper remedy is the filing of an action for replevin, or an interpleader filed by the Government in the proper court, not necessarily the same one which issued the search warrant; however, where there is still a probability that the seizure will be followed by the filing of a criminal action, as in the case at bar where the case for carnapping was " dismissed provisionally, without prejudice to its reopening once the issue of ownership is resolved in favor of complainant " (emphasis supplied), or the criminal information has actually been commenced, or filed, and actually prosecuted, and there are conflicting claims over the property seized, the proper remedy is to question the validity of the search warrant in the same court which issued it and not in any other branch of the said court.

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