The Mississippi Center for Public Policy continues to perform an analysis of the data from the civil asset forfeiture database and the results continue to raise more questions than they answer.
The law — which created the database — has been in effect for two years now and there have been 476 seizures as of September 20 (there were 315 by January), with a total value of $4,294,535.
The average seizure has increased slightly from $7,490 per seizure in the initial analysis done in January in the database’s first 18 months online to $7,952.
While that sounds like a substantial increase, there are several outliers that skew the numbers. Ten of the seizures were of $100,000 or more and the sum of those added up to $2,042,206 or 47 percent of all seizures. Those 10 seizures had an average value of $204,220, but only represented 2.1 percent of all seizures.
The highest dollar seizure remains the bust of several vape shops for selling spice (synthetic cannabinoids) by the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics. MBN seized $644,421 in cash in Rankin County on August 5, 2018.
Removing the seizures of $100,000 or more lowers the average to $4,837. The average of the seizures with a total value of less than $50,000 was $4,274 and represented 96.6 percent of all seizures.
The vast majority of seizures, 399 according to the database, were less than $10,000, representing 83.8 percent of all seizures. Even smaller were 161 seizures for less than $1,000 or 33.8 percent of the total.
|Value of forfeited property||Percentage of all forfeitures|
What was seized is also instructive. Most seizures (376 out of 476) involved currency and those averaged about $9,662. There were also 264 weapons seized, worth an average of $357 per firearm.
There were 89 vehicles seized, with an average value of $5,727.
Among the more unusual items included an Xbox One video game system (the department valued it at $129) that was forfeited to the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department on June 10. Agents found 14 grams of marijuana, 100 THC-infused vape cartridges and some edibles at the home of the Xbox’s owner, who also lost a 2014 Ford Mustang to forfeiture.
A collectible $5 bill from 1963 (valued at $100 according to the Yalobusha County Sheriff’s Department) was seized on May 6 along with $10,314 in cash in a drug bust that included methamphetamine, marijuana, ecstasy, alprazolam, carisoprodol and hydrocodone. The forfeiture was contested in court.
There were also four televisions that were also forfeited.
The picture the database paints is incomplete, since the law requires only law enforcement agencies to list the description and value of the item seized, a copy of the notice to intent to forfeit, any petitions by property owners to contest the forfeiture and any judge’s order that would include those that cover final disposition of the seized property.
There are no requirements that law enforcement agencies list the type of drug that was involved with the seizure, the circumstances of the seizure or whether charges were filed in connection with the seizure.
Some law enforcement agencies, including the North Mississippi Narcotics Unit, include the related incident report that provides maximum transparency with the drug type and quantity, circumstances of the arrest, charges (if any) and the location.
Others provide this information, such as the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department, in the notice to forfeit.