3 weeks after charge dismissed, Mobile man waiting to get back seized $3,900

Published: Jun. 9, 2023 at 6:15 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Three weeks after a judge dismissed a drug charge, Claude Desmond Mayes still hasn’t gotten back nearly $4,000 that law enforcement officers seized during the arrest.

Unlike civil asset forfeiture actions, the delay is not the result of a court battle. Mayes just hasn’t gotten the money yet. The Mobile man told FOX10 News he has been calling and visiting the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office in person to get back his $3,900.

“Multiple times since May 16,” he said. “I can say I’ve been down here 15 times – 10 to 15 times within that time, within three weeks.”

Mobile County Sheriff Paul Burch was not available for comment Friday, but spokeswoman Lori Myles told FOX10 News that Mayes will be able to get his money on Wednesday, the day the department cuts checks.

“It was an error on our part,” she wrote. “The paperwork didn’t match up and it was sent back to narcotics for them to fix.”

Mayes, 33, said he has gotten the runaround.

“They tell me to go to property,” he said. “Then they tell me to go to finance. Then they tell me to talk to this person. They give me this number, that number. It all leads to nowhere. I’m back to square one.”

The cash seizure stems from an incident in January when Mayes was with a group of friends at a house on Marine Street when law enforcement officers swept in. He said a confidential informant reported drug activity.

Mayes was charged with possession of marijuana. But he did not have any drugs on him and was not near a vehicle where deputies did find drugs. So Mobile County District Judge Jennifer Wright dismissed the charge on May 16.

Under state law, a criminal conviction – or even a charge – is not necessary for law enforcement to legally seize money if they can show it was connected to criminal activity. FOX10 News has highlighted a legal fight by Whistler resident Joshua Trevor O’Field to get a car returned to him after a judge dismissed criminal charges against him. In a different case in April, the Sheriff’s Office seized money during a traffic stop on Interstate 10 even though authorities never filed criminal charges.

But this case is different. The Sheriff’s Office is not fighting to keep the money. It just has not returned it yet.

“I feel like it should be given to me the same way it was taken,” Mayes said. “They took it right then; they should be able to give it back soon as the case was dismissed.”