The records show many seizures of cash well over $100,000, the sort of big hauls that police say make asset forfeiture a vital tool to disrupt drug trafficking. But there are also many seizures of petty cash and cars in connection to little more than misdemeanor drug possession charges. Many of those cases ended in settlements, like Rehfeldt’s client, where police only partially returned money and property—arrangements that state officials say can give the appearance of a shakedown.
For example, in April of 2015 the Desoto County Sheriff’s Department agreed to return a 2006 Chevy Trailblazer owned by the mother of the petitioner, Jesse Smith, in exchange for $1,650. As Reason has reported in several cases, family members, especially parents, frequently have their cars seized for the alleged crimes of their children, even though the parents may not be charged or in any way connected to illegal activity.