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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  1. identicon
    Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously, 11 Jan 2017 @ 3:59am

    Or

    They probably, overzealously, damaged the couch in search of drugs and don't want to either admit or pay for the damage. The easiest solution is to not return the couch.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 4:02am

    payback

    Someone needs to go to the sheriff's house and steal his shit. Fair is fair after all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Daydream, 11 Jan 2017 @ 4:06am

    And this country has problems with illegal immigration? I find it hard to believe that people would willingly live in a country where armed burglary is legal and defending against it is not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 4:34am

    When asked why they act like criminals,
    "But .. but .. drugs" they whined, as if that were enough justification.

    When asked where are the drugs ...
    (blank stare)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    wshuff (profile), 11 Jan 2017 @ 4:44am

    Yeah, but remember . . . Most of these people have done nothing in their lives but sell dope.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Ninja (profile), 11 Jan 2017 @ 4:53am

    So all you need is somebody having a hunch that you have at least a toe in the drug-y business and it doesn't matter if you are a law abiding citizen. You will be legally screwed.

    I dunno, even if I had nothing to hide I would start to be afraid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 4:53am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 4:56am

    Re:

    When asked where are the drugs ...
    (blank stare)

    Humm that blank stare looks like someone who is high, quick seize their assets!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 4:57am

    Re: Re: payback

    How about rolled all over the rights of the accused? This seems to be the primary reason for anger against police and for the ratcheting of rights migration. The people now have few, but the protected people also known as the police, have double the rights they previously had.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 5:07am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 5:23am

    Re:

    That tells you how bad things have gotten south of your border due to your drug war.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 5:28am

    Re: Re:

    Really?
    I read that the net immigration to/from Mexico has become negative, more are leaving than entering.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 5:30am

    Re: Re:

    They do not use logic, it the work of the devil.
    They use greed

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Paul Renault (profile), 11 Jan 2017 @ 5:51am

    One of these days...

    A drug dealer with a sense of poetic justice will infect some of the furniture, the better-looking, clean, desirable furniture, with typhus and smallpox.

    The ugly, uncomfortable-looking furniture would be reserved for actual use.

    Other ideas? Say, espresso machines with asbestos-laden lead pipes?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    timmaguire42 (profile), 11 Jan 2017 @ 6:10am

    "gives the program the appearance of impropriety"

    Yeah, that's the problem. The APPEARANCE of impropriety.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 6:15am

    Re: One of these days...

    I was just going to suggest bedbugs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    timmaguire42 (profile), 11 Jan 2017 @ 6:25am

    Re:

    This country has many strengths and weaknesses. What's the connection between state and local police acting as highway robbers and people illegally crossing our borders?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 6:31am

    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".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    Eponymous Coward (profile), 11 Jan 2017 @ 6:44am

    Also retained, one rug

    Court documents stated that "One oriental rug shall also be retained, as officers find that it really ties the break room together, urine stain notwithstanding."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 11 Jan 2017 @ 6:44am

    Your daily reminder that...

    ...asset seizure is punitive with presumption of guilt, and is specifically unconstitutional.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    DC Pathogen, 11 Jan 2017 @ 6:45am

    This is simply allowing law enforcement to apply punitive measures before any due process(and profit from it), exactly what the 4th amendment is supposed to protect us against.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 6:54am

    Imagine if this was applied to bank robbers.

    Even if caught, they would still get to keep a portion of the loot for their trouble.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 7:19am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yeah but us gringos can't accept that truth and maintain our hubris that we're the envy of the world.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Bob, 11 Jan 2017 @ 7:57am

    Re: Imagine if this was applied to bank robbers.

    Hmmm as many large banks have been tied to money laundering operations for drug cartels, the bank robber could have a good claim to the money...especially if said bank robber was in a blue uniform.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Michael, 11 Jan 2017 @ 8:16am

    "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."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. icon
    DannyB (profile), 11 Jan 2017 @ 8:31am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. icon
    DannyB (profile), 11 Jan 2017 @ 8:32am

    Re: Re:

    If they were high, they might have the munchies. Oh, wait. Donuts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. icon
    DannyB (profile), 11 Jan 2017 @ 8:38am

    Re:

    The fees give the program ACTUAL impropriety.

    If you've done nothing wrong you should get ALL your property back, or not even have it seized thus eliminating the problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. icon
    Vidiot (profile), 11 Jan 2017 @ 8:43am

    White Couch to Wet the Beak

    "This is my neighborhood. You and your friends should show me some respect. You should let me wet my beak a little."

    • Don Fanucci, The Godfather: Part II

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 8:45am

    Theft under color of authority.

    What rights do you have when you right to speech, right to keep & bear arms and right to be secure in your papers & possessions are ignored by the enforcement arm of government, in violation of the Constitutional establishment of their existence?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 10:06am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 10:07am

    Re: Re: Imagine if this was applied to bank robbers.

    If the large banks are tied to money laundering, when is the police going to swoop in and claim all the money in the bank for themselves?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    Personanongrata, 11 Jan 2017 @ 10:09am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 10:38am

    3 years? 3 years!

    It took 3 years for them to get the furniture back and they didn't even get all of it. Due process this was not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 11:38am

    "* 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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 11:44am

    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...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 11:48am

    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

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 12:57pm

    Twitter Feed

    Someone needs to use the "Every-Tweet-Ever Feed" to see if the non returned items have shown up in any tweets. You know, criminals love Tweeting s---.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2017 @ 4:04pm

    What's the proper response?

    For me at least the proper response is relief that I live in a country in which the cops and the robbers have more differences than the clothes they wear to work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2017 @ 4:28am

    Re: Re:

    "You can spend your days trying to get your stuff back"

    Which becomes even harder when your money is taken. Try hiring a lawyer when you're broke...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41. identicon
    Cowardly Lion, 12 Jan 2017 @ 4:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Imagine if this was applied to bank robbers.

    One rule for thee and one for me...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42. identicon
    American Patriot, 12 Jan 2017 @ 10:03am

    Re: payback

    Time for the people to begin hunting down, and wiping out every CRIMINAL COP EMPLOYEE!
    EMPLOYEES HAVE NO RIGHRS!
    EMPLOYEES CAN NOT BE GRANTED POWERS ABOVE THE PEOPLE!
    EMPLOYEES ARE PROPERTY!
    FIGHT BACK!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43. identicon
    American Patriot, 12 Jan 2017 @ 10:11am

    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!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 13 Jan 2017 @ 7:27am

    Re:

    What is this "Constitution" I keep hearing about? It's like Santa Claus: cute for the kids to believe in but the adults don't. It's something like that, isn't it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45. identicon
    Justme, 13 Jan 2017 @ 7:18pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46. identicon
    White Wooden Bunk Beds, 27 Jun 2017 @ 12:44pm

    For Real

    Really? Does he return everything but the couch? Isn't that like theft?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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