Drug Policy

Fifth Circuit: Police Not Liable for Plants Mistakenly Destroyed in Drug Raid

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The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a federal judge's dismissal of a lawsuit against a sheriff in Harrison County, Mississippi who destroyed $225,000 worth of kenaf plants during a drug raid.  The sheriff and his deputies mistook the plants for marijuana.  They seized the plants even after a sample tested negative for THC.

Marion Waltman, the owner of the plants, was asking to be compensated for the destruction of his property.  The appeals court upheld the circuit court judge's ruling that the qualified immunity enjoyed by government employees requires Waltman to show "deliberate indifference" on the part of the sheriff, and that Waltman failed to meet that standard.

Waltman might still be able to sue in state court.  But for now, he'll have to foot the bill for the sheriff's $225,000 mistake.