ENSONIQ CORP. v. SUPERIOR COURT
77 Cal.Rptr.2d 507 (1998)
65 Cal.App.4th 1537
ENSONIQ CORPORATION, Petitioner,
The SUPERIOR COURT of Santa Clara County, Respondent;
Jon Dattoro, Real Party in Interest.
Court of Appeals of California, Sixth District.
August 14, 1998.
Review Denied November 18, 1998.
James McManis, Esq., Michael Reedy, Esq., McManis, Faulkner & Morgan, San Jose, for Petitioner.
No Appearance for Respondent.
Eric M. Satire, Esq., San Francisco, Marvin Rous, Esq., San Francisco, Edward Mahler, Esq., San Jose, for Real Party in Interest.
COTTLE, Presiding Justice.I. INTRODUCTION
This matter arises from the competing claims of petitioner Ensoniq Corporation (hereafter, Ensoniq) and its former employee, real party in interest Jon Dattoro (hereafter, Dattoro) to intellectual property which Dattoro brought to California when he left his employment with Ensoniq. Ensoniq contacted the district attorney, who obtained a search warrant and seized the disputed property from Dattoro's residence. However, the district attorney decided not to prosecute Dattoro, who then brought a motion for return of the seized property.
Ensoniq now seeks a writ of mandate to compel respondent superior court to vacate its order setting forth the procedure for the hearing on Dattoro's motion for return of property seized under search warrant. In its order, the superior court ruled that Ensoniq has no standing to participate in the hearing, and permitted only the district attorney to
present evidence that Ensoniq is the rightful owner of the seized property.
We hold that the superior court properly determined that, under the circumstances of this case, Ensoniq is a third party with no standing under the Penal Code to apply for delivery of the seized property or otherwise contest Dattoro's motion for return of seized property. We also hold that the court erred in requiring the district attorney to participate in the hearing, because the trial court cannot compel the district attorney to oppose a motion for return of seized property. The district attorney has not charged Dattoro with any crime, has conceded that the People cannot prove that Dattoro stole the seized property from Ensoniq, and has not objected to the return of the property to Dattoro.
Under these circumstances, due process requires that Dattoro's motion for return of legal property seized under warrant be granted, and that the superior court issue an order returning actual possession of the seized physical items to Dattoro. As we further explain, this order is limited to a determination of the right of actual possession of the physical items in this I proceeding, and has no effect upon the parties' competing civil claims to ownership of either the physical items or the intellectual property contained within them. We therefore grant the petition for writ of mandate, and direct respondent court to issue an order in accordance with our holding.II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND