Ten seizures worth $68,634 by the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office and listed in the state’s civil asset forfeiture database have no associated paperwork, according to an analysis of records by the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.
The Sheriff’s Office said that incident reports were only available for eight of the 18 forfeiture cases listed in the first 18 months on the civil asset forfeiture database. They said the other records were missing.
The eight incident reports provided by the sheriff’s office can be found here. Seven of them match up to records in the forfeiture database.
One of them has the same case number as one in the database, but the dates and facts of the case differ from the one listed online.
This case from March 28, 2018 involved the seizure of a 2009 BMW 750iL luxury car worth $10,000, but the incident report provided to MCPP listed a driving under the influence case with a different arrestee from March 3, 2018 that involved no seizure of property and a 2017 Chevrolet Malibu.
These are the cases without associated incident reports:
- This case from May 5, 2018 where the Sheriff’s Office seized $710 in cash and a Glock pistol worth $550. The notice of intent to forfeit says the seized property was found in close proximity to ecstasy and marijuana.
- A Volvo commercial truck ($10,000 value) and a Great Dane refrigerated truck ($15,000) were seized on June 27, 2018. No drugs were listed on notice of intent.
- This case from May 17, 2018 resulted in the seizure of a 1998 Honda Accord ($1,000 value) and $1,201 in cash. No drugs were listed in the notice of intent.
- The sheriff’s office seized $6,131 in cash, according to the notice of intent, on July 16, 2018. The NOI said marijuana was in close proximity to the seized cash.
- On August 31, 2017, the sheriff’s office seized $1,431 in cash. No drugs were listed on the notice to forfeit.
- The database lists a seizure from October 10, 2017 when $3,863 was seized. Marijuana was reported as the drug in proximity to the cash.
- The sheriff’s office reported a seizure from October 12, 2017 of $5,000 in cash, a $500 safe and a 12-gauge shotgun worth $200. Marijuana was listed as the drug in proximity to the seized items, but the forfeiture was later contested and no final decision is listed in the database.
- On January 10, 2018, deputies seized $10,520 in cash, citing the presence of marijuana as the justification for the seizure.
- On February 1, 2018, $1,040 in cash and a 20-gauge shotgun worth $100 were seized due to proximity to marijuana.
- This case from February 28, 2018 resulted in the seizure of $1,488 in cash. No drugs were listed on the notice of intent.
A new report from the non-profit Institute for Justice on the federal equitable sharing program finds that civil asset forfeiture does not deter crime and does not reduce drug use, the two most common refrains from proponents of civil asset forfeiture. At the same time, forfeiture activity increases as local economies suffer.
A 1 percentage point increase in local unemployment — a standard proxy for fiscal stress — is associated with a statistically significant 9 percentage point increase in seizures of property for forfeiture.
Mississippi has begun to make a move to scale back civil forfeiture. In 2017, the legislature let administrative forfeiture die when the law authorizing the program was not renewed.
Previously, administrative forfeiture allowed agents of the state to take property valued under $20,000 and forfeit it by merely obtaining a warrant and providing the individual with a notice. In order to get the property back, an individual was required to file a petition in court within 30 days and incur legal fees in order to contest the forfeiture and recover such assets.
The state is still allowed to seize and keep property through civil forfeiture, a process that requires the state to go before a judge for an adjudication of whether the property should be forfeited, even if the owner does not file suit.
And much like the federal program has not translated into less crime or drug use, the program in Mississippi has generally not led to big drug busts. In fact, if you remove one large bust from the equation, the average value of forfeited property is only $5,422 over the past 18 months. Less than 10 seizures statewide amounted to more than $60,000. One-third were for less than $1,000. A similar story is evident among Hinds County seizures.