Legal issues behind the trade of firearms forfeited to the sheriff’s office became a hot topic during Monday’s meeting of county commissioners, with Sheriff Kenny Lemons and District Attorney Page Williams weighing in.
On May 28, Commissioners approved a request by Lemons to trade approximately 17 long guns and “some” handguns to GT Distributors, an online supplier of police gear, for in-store credit. The weapons have been forfeited to the sheriff’s department.
Gee returned to the issue during the June 10 meeting, citing an attorney general’s opinion and requested the trade be put on hold until Gee could contact an attorney with the Texas Association of Counties to determine if the trade for in-store credit is legal.
Forfeited weapons must be traded for “like equipment” or sold. Whether or not it requires approval of commissioners depends on if the items were abandoned or seized by the sheriff’s office.
Lemons said the in-store credit would likely be used to purchase equipment to benefit the county’s drug dog unit, but Gee was not convinced that in-store credit meets the definition of “like equipment.”
Page Williams, 97th District Attorney, said she suggested Lemons come before commissioners to ask for approval of the trade for the sake of transparency, although he is not required to do so for items that have been abandoned.
Williams noted that she was not speaking to the court as an attorney, but giving her thoughts on the issue. She then clarified the differences in disposing of abandoned and seized items.
Although abandoned items do not require the approval of commissioners for sale or trade. Once an item has been in the possession of the sheriff’s office for 60 days after the sheriff’s office has attempted to contact the rightful owner through registered mail, a judge can order the item to be forfeited.
If a seized item is forfeited, it becomes county property and requires the approval of commissioners to sale or trade. Funds from seized items sold must be deposited into the county’s general fund.
When Williams took office in January, she teamed with District Judge Jack McGaughey to clarify orders for the forfeiture of items to local sheriff’s offices in the 97th judicial district. Williams said the previous orders were unclear at best.
The Pioneer Sentinel has submitted an open records request to the CCSO to determine the number of guns and if the weapons were seized or abandoned.