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socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 39019
Experience:  Retired (mostly)
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I was placed on administrative leave from a local law enforcement

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I was placed on administrative leave from a local law enforcement agency. At that time i was told to collect my belongings, which included $4700 i had in my desk (because of personel issues my husband and i were having). My administrative leave was for performance issues and nothing criminal or ethical/theft related. The Sargeant in charge of the internal affairs investigation (for what they stated was performance related issues and, paper work was given to me at the time stating the same) said he was taking my money and did so. I vieamantely rejected saying it was my personal property. The money was inventoried (not in my presence). I was told the money was being held for safe keeping, however safe keeping only involves an arestee, a 5150, or a firearm. The money was kept in the Sargeants desk and never booked into property as dept. protocal requires. also, i was told my money would not be returned unless i showed proof it was mine, it was kept by the Police Dept. approximately 5 months and was immediately returned when i filed a small claims against the Dept. and City. I believe my Forth amendment rights against illegal seizure were violated. The Police Department had no probable cause (facts or circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to beleive a crime has been committed), this did not involve a crime, and no search warrant.

What question do you have concerning your circumstances that I can "justanswer" for you today?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Is this a good case to pursue?, In your estimation. I currently have Lackie and Dammier working on my seperation from the city. However, they dont handel 4th amendment issues. If you determine this is a good solid case what is your consultation fee?, and or if you cant take on this case can you recommend a very good and aggresive attorney for a federal law suit.

In my opinion, it is not a good case. The reason is not due to your rights being violated, but rather because you cannot show substantial compensatory damages. You weren't physically restrained, or injured, and your money was returned. So, at most you would be looking at the economic interest that you lost. However, since you were keeping the money in your desk, you weren't earning any interest, and you can't even prove damages for the lost interest.

Without damages, no attorney will be interested in the case -- because there's no money to be made. Thus, while I would like to tell you otherwise, I do not believe that you have a cause of action for a deprivation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983 (the applicable federal statute).

Please don't shoot the messenger.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I appreciate your advise, However, if i understand you correctly you are saying my rights were violated but there was no loss or injury?. I dont beleive that the Police Department has a right to deprive me of my property even if it was monetary. If they had taken my vehicle for five months without cause would you then say! "Oh well, you had another car to go back and forth to work, no harm no foul". Does the Police Dept. have a legal right to take my property (money) without a warrant or not?

The U.S. Department of Justice prosecutes criminal violations of federal civil rights law, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 241, 18 U.S.C. § 242. As an academic question, the police violated your rights. But, as I'm sure your aware, just because a crime may have been committed, doesn't mean that the district attorney will prosecute the case. The same thing extends to the U.S. Attorney. You can complain to the DOJ, but just because a crime can be stated, doesn't mean that the government will prosecute.

Were I a deputy U.S. Attorney, I would read your facts and say to myself: We have more important cases to spend the U.S. taxpayer's money on. The victim's money was returned, he/she wasn't injured -- so, I'll keep the file open in case I get another complaint about this police department -- but, I'm not going to prosecute, because there are bigger fish to fry."

Concerning civil action, it's all about damages. In fact, when it comes to civil law, the linch pin of every case is damages. Litigants don't sue for nominal damages ($1.00), just to vindicate their reputation, because they won't pay an attorney thousands of dollars to do so -- and, no attorney takes this sort of case without damages.

Concerning your analogy to a motor vehicle, I believe that it is inapposite. A vehicle depreciates in value over time -- it has a present use value that can be measured by the replacement cost to the owner -- as well as damages caused by the elements, mileage, etc. If your vehicle were taken and held for five months, then you would have some identifiable damages.

Money, however, while it does depreciate due to inflation, and while there is a time value to the money, the damages, at this time in history, are small, because the interest rate that a person can get for their money is practically nothing (maybe 1.5% from a bank, which would be about $29 compound interest on $4,700 over 5 months).

Are you going to bring a civil rights claim for $29, plus punitive damages? Okay, the constitutional standard for punitives is three times compensatory, so now you've got a total claim for $116.00. The filing fee to sue in Superior court for under $10,000 is $240. So, even if you "do-it-yourself," you're going to risk $240 to make $116 -- and that's not counting any of the other fees involved in getting to judgment.

The botXXXXX XXXXXne is that you have a cause of action, but you have no damages. If I were pissed off, and I wanted to extract my ounce of justice, I would probably contact the media and try to get a reporter interested in the case. Maybe the police would pay you to stop the bad media coverage. But, as a straight civil action, it's just not economically viable.

Hope this helps clarify my thoughts.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I appreciate your help sooo much. I would just ask one more question which involves this action. My husband is a Police Officer for another agency, not mine. He belives since we are married the money in question is also his and he was not happy with there tactics, and belives they were punitive and malicious to both he and I. Can he file criminal charges (or request criminal charges) with the D.A.'s office on the Officers involved that took "our" money rather than sue?.

Anyone with knowledge of a criminal act can report the act to the government. Even if it were determined that it's only your money, your husband could file a criminal report.

Hope this helps.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Your service was excellent...and will be reflected as so. Is there any other secondary way i can put in how happy i was with your work and this web site?. Also, when my money was taken by the P.D. i told them it was mine because of personel isssues with my husband. And just to confirm if my husband does go thru with his desires to press charges, can they say if i was keeping the money from my husband it is not his? last question i promise... Or is because we are married it makes it joint property?.

As I previously mentioned, it really doesn't matter whose money it is. But, given that California is a community property state, the law presumes that the money is one half yours and one half your spouse's.

Re expressions of additional appreciation, you are free to leave a bonus if you wish. It could even be for $4,700!

Just kidding...take care.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thats's funny! I plan on leaving something extra, because you're legal advice was extremely helpful and much appreciated. I'll send you an IOU for the other $4,650, to be cashed after my wrongful termination ruling:)


Now for a really stupid final question. Is there any way for me to save this conversation to a file, since I'm sure well want to refer to it later?


Once you positively rate my answer, the file is unlocked and you can print it or save it at your convenience.
socrateaser and other California Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi There,


Need to ask you some more questions please. I will see if this route reaches you first,



Hello again,

I will be happy to try to assist you further. Please use this link to start a new Q&A session.

Thanks in advance.