Circuit Court Lacks In Rem Jurisdiction Over Personal Property Seized Under 21 U.S.C. § 881

Hare and Sosa v. Sheriff Hoss Mack, et al., [Ms. 1200562, Jan. 21, 2022] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2022). The Court (Mitchell, J.; Parker, C.J., and Bolin, Wise, and Stewart, JJ., concur; Mendheim, J., concurs in the result; Sellers, J., dissents; Shaw, J., recuses) affirms the Baldwin Circuit Court’s order dismissing for lack of in rem jurisdiction an action filed by Yamil Alexsander Hare and Jose Sosa. Hare and Sosa sought to recover personal property (over $100,00 in cash) seized from Hare by a Gulf Shores police officer. The cash was seized from Hare by the Gulf Shores officer without a warrant under state law and then transferred to two Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office (“BCSO”) deputies, acting in their capacity as federally deputized agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (“the DEA”). Ms. *4.

The Court first clarifies prior Alabama Court of Civil Appeals decisions holding that de novo review applies to rulings on motions to dismiss asserting lack of in rem jurisdiction. The Court explains that

“[i]t is more exact … to say that we review issues of law de novo and findings of fact for clear error. In stating the standard of review as de novo (pure and simple), the parties overlook that the jurisdictional determination in this case was based on facts presented in evidentiary materials outside the pleadings.”

Ms. *8.

In affirming, the Court holds “Deputies Middleton and Harville ‘t[ook] or detained’ the personal property ‘under [21 U.S.C. § 881]’ when Officer McElroy transferred it to them in their federal capacity as DEA agents. 21 U.S.C. § 881(c). Under § 881(c), the personal property was in the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government from that moment. Thus, the circuit court rightly held that it could not exercise in rem jurisdiction over the personal property.” Ms. *35.

Related Documents