Sheriff's Office Raids Home, Seizes All The Furniture, Ultimately Returns Everything But The Couch

from the finder's-fee:-one-(1)-sofa dept

The joke about asset forfeiture is that it’s actually not a joke. Advisors to law enforcement have actually said it’s a great way for cops to go shopping for things they want. It’s not just cash being taken, although it’s primarily that. It’s vehicles, too. And when that just doesn’t seem to be enough, it’s houses. And everything in them.

So, the “going shopping” joke is one very dark punchline. Here’s another one: “take everything that isn’t nailed down.” Except that this actually happens. And it includes things that are nailed down. Reason’s C.J. Ciaramella has more details.

In 2012, Rehfeldt says the Hind County Sheriff’s Office raided his client’s apartment on suspicion her boyfriend was a drug dealer. Anything purchased with drug proceeds is fair game to be seized by police under civil asset forfeiture laws, and they determined the boyfriend had furnished the apartment, so off went her TV, her table and chairs, her couch, her lamps, and even the pictures on the wall.

“Her case is the first in my 38 years of practicing law where they took the furniture,” Rehfeldt says.

What’s the proper response? Shock that this sort of thing actually happens? Or relief that law enforcement doesn’t clean out a person’s home every time they have a hunch something may have been purchased with the proceeds of criminal activity?

In this case, most of what was taken by the sheriff’s office was eventually returned. Rehfeldt’s clients is one of the lucky ones, able to navigate a legal pathway that’s a greased downhill slope for law enforcement, but an expensive, uphill battle for those whose property has been seized.

His client got everything back. Well, not everything.

“It is, therefore, ordered and adjudged that one Visio television, one dining room table and chairs, pictures and lamps are to be returned to the plaintiff upon execution of this Order by this Court,” the Feb. 10, 2015 order in the Hinds County Court reads. “Additionally, one white couch is hereby forfeited to the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office.”

For reasons unexplained, the sheriff’s office was allowed to keep the couch. Perhaps deputies had grown attached to it after it was placed in the breakroom. Or maybe it was “disposed” prior to the forfeiture being finalized and there was simply no way to retrieve it. Or maybe it was just the state’s skim — the percentage taken off the top of every forfeiture, whether or not the seizure was legally-justified.

The skim is part of the problem. Mississippi’s legislature is looking at overhauling the state’s forfeiture laws and a Senate committee letter obtained by Reason confirms that law enforcement’s tendency to charge fees or withhold some percentage of the property seized gives the program the appearance of impropriety.

Upon a cursory analysis of these orders, PEER staff notes that Agreed Orders tend to have the most potential for indicating possible abuse. This is because most Agreed Orders are entered into upon a settlement agreement in which the arresting authority receives some or all of the forfeited property as a condition subsequent to some sort of agreement made between the arresting party and the defendant.

As the arresting party often seizes a large amount of property or cash and many of these Agreed Orders stipulate that some or most of the said property or cash will be returned while some will be forfeited, a reasonable person might assume that the arresting party is using its authority to gain assets from an arrest by settling with the defendant.

If this is how it’s routinely handled, it encourages law enforcement to take everything it can get its hands on, if for no other reason than it increase its chances of being able to retain some of it if the forfeiture is challenged. This settlement system perverts incentives, changing it from serving the general public through the targeted crippling of criminal organizations (however loosely-defined) to serving law enforcement agencies by allowing them to directly profit from the taking of citizens’ property.

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Comments on “Sheriff's Office Raids Home, Seizes All The Furniture, Ultimately Returns Everything But The Couch”

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46 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: payback

If the sheriff performed an illegal act in the commission of his duties then the sheriff should have the proceeds ( paycheck and whatever he bought with it ) of his criminal organization seized.

I’m sure we could find plenty of illegal things police do daily. Rolling through stop signs, running red lights because they can, not because of need, arresting people on bogus charges, filing false police reports, excessive force, leaving their vehicles running on public streets with the keys in the ignition, not having weapons properly secured in said unattended vehicle, trespassing on private property to give tickets to people for letting their cars run unattended yet not ticketing themselves for leaving their cruiser running unattended while placing the ticket and insert all other things police do that they ticket the public for doing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That’s just a trick the Mexican’s are playing on us. The tracking is on Legal border crossings, so they go to Mexico legally, and then take the express tunnel back to the US with no record of re-entry. Some of them do this 8-10 times a year, resulting in a higher USA/Mexico transfer…

Or at least that’s what Cheech & Chong (yes I know they aren’t) would do, just to F… with the USA…

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s not a connection between. It’s a comparison between the two.

Is illegal immigration really as big of a problem as legalized highway robbery, and criminal gangs with badges roving the streets with marked police cars, harassing, falsely arresting, beating up or even killing citizens?

I think the latter is a much bigger problem to live with. Illegal immigration might have a long term effect on the country, but in general it does not affect my day to day life. But a single contact with the police can ruin your life, deprive you of your property, and result in severe injury or death.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Want to stop the illegal sales then legalize the drugs, regulate them, and tax them. That will destroy the black market, alow police to focus on real crime, generate tax revenue and prevent death from drugs laced with who knows what. If people could easily buy their oxytocin the death epidemic from illegal heroine laced with phentonol would not exist. The war on drugs is only creating more problems while doing nothing to solve the drug use problem.

You will still have drug users but they exist if drugs are illegal or not. At least by legalizing drugs you can eliminate some of the problems associated with drugs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“The war on drugs is only creating more problems while doing nothing to solve the drug use problem”

But it did make several people very rich, and after all that is what is important.

Remember when Hillary said something like stopping the drug war would be difficult because there was too much money in it. The ridicule was a bit short sighted and somewhat shallow considering that there is a lot of money changing hands as a result of private prisons, asset forfeiture, dept funding. Doing the right thing becomes difficult when it means a reduction in levels of “funding”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You could have ZERO, anything to do with drugs and still get screwed by the police and everything taken. It just doesn’t matter. You can fight to get your stuff back, but the odds are not in your favor. The police go to your house by mistake when it’s the person next door, but it just doesn’t matter, you’re still screwed!!!

Remember, it’s take everything NOW, doesn’t matter if there’s any proof or if you’re ever found guilty or even taken to court. NONE of that matters. You can spend your days trying to get your stuff back with little hope of that ever happening and if it does, you won’t be getting it all back. It really just is criminal what the police are doing.

The whole drug war really needs to end. It makes no sense to ban drugs but allow alcohol. Look what happened when alcohol was banned. It was the SAME RESULTS as we are having with drugs.

We have the Government with PRO Abortion. What you do with your body is your own business. Though I considering it murdering a person that had no choice in the matter, but drugs is the same. If you want to do drugs, it’s your own body. I don’t care what pills you want to pop or smoke, or inject. Legalize it all. Tax it all. It would put the drug cartels and the gangs out of business because people could legally buy whatever anywhere at any time.

Everyone in jail because of drugs, set them FREE!!! This dumb war on drugs will never end. You can never win. It’s a losing battle. It’s really a whole Police money thing. All the jobs created for this war on drugs. It really just needs to end.

Some people have self control and others don’t and some war on drugs will never stop those that have no self control. It just turns them into criminals. I can buy all the alcohol I want but I rarely drink. If drugs turned legal tomorrow I have little interest to go out and start buying drugs left and right.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The Mob should be suing them for theft of business model…

That’s a nice looking house you got there, would be a shame if someone “seized” all your assets now wouldn’t it? For just a small fee we at the Sheriff’s office can ensure that doesn’t happen.

Oh, don’t mind Guido over there with the baseball bat, he’s just my associate. We will be back next month for your next protection (I mean fee) payment.

Redneck Sheriff’s Office

American Patriot (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This is EXACTLY what the 2nd amendment is for!
AMERICANS CAN KILL ANY CRIMINAL KNOWN TO USE DESDLY FORCE AGAINST THEM!
EMPLOYEES HAVE NO CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OR POWER, THEY ARE HIRED HELP, AND DENIED BY LAW!
ENTER OUR HOME BY FORCE, WE WILL SHOOT YOU DOWN.!
OUR homez does NOT COME UNDER CONTROL OF ANYONE BUT US, AND WE WILL KILL TO DEFEND WHAT IS OURS!
EMPLOYEES ARE LEGALLY NEUTERED!

Michael (profile) says:

“What’s the proper response? Shock that this sort of thing actually happens? Or relief that law enforcement doesn’t clean out a person’s home every time they have a hunch something may have been purchased with the proceeds of criminal activity?”

I think the proper response is “Wow! I’m amazed that these police officers were not so lazy that they went so far as to move furniture!. That’s also time-consuming. It is comforting to know that they spent the requisite time to steal a bunch of furniture while criminals were on the street.”

Personanongrata says:

Thick as Thieves

As the arresting party often seizes a large amount of property or cash and many of these Agreed Orders stipulate that some or most of the said property or cash will be returned while some will be forfeited, a reasonable person might assume that the arresting party is using its authority to gain assets from an arrest by settling with the defendant.

a reasonable person might also assume that the arresting party is committing a criminal act (ie larceny) under color of the law.

If this is how it’s routinely handled, it encourages law enforcement to take everything it can get its hands on, if for no other reason than it increase its chances of being able to retain some of it if the forfeiture is challenged.

Yes it’s called larceny and it’s a crime. It doesn’t matter if you are wearing a special government issued costume larceny is larceny. If you take a person property without just cause you are a thief. In this instance a tax-feeding thief.

Anonymous Coward says:

“* The charges against Rehfeldt’s client were later dismissed, and she eventually had her record expunged. For those reasons, Reason chose not to publish her name. The prosecutor in the case, now an attorney for the city of Jackson, declined to comment. The whereabouts of the couch remain unknown.””

So they dismissed the charges, and returned all of her stuff except the couch. Can someone explain to me why the police department is not buying her a new couch?

Justme says:

Perversion. .

The whole concept of charging the property with a crime rather then a person, is a complete perversion of the law designed solely to get around the constitutional protections against seizure without due process.

But i guess in cases where an officers shoots an unarmed person, charging the officers gun with murder instead of the officer, might increase the odds of an indictment.

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