Sherrif's Business card on door?
February 7, 2007 5:43 AM   Subscribe

What could a buisiness card from a Sheriff's Deputy left on your front door mean? I called but had to leave a message and am freaking out.

I know it could mean anything, but what are some likely cause of summons, etc? Wost case scenarios?
posted by rainbaby to Law & Government (26 answers total)
nothing too serious, otherwise they would still be there. they just want to talk about something.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 5:51 AM on February 7, 2007

It basically means someone with either a) too many parking tickets or b) several bad debts has given your address as their place of residence. If that person isn't you, you have nothing to worry about.
posted by jellicle at 5:54 AM on February 7, 2007

You got any warrants? Once (when I lived in a shack on the sketchy side of town) my neighbors told me that a cop kept coming by my place when I wasn't there, and then one morning at like 6am I was awoken by this thunderously loud knocking, like DOOM DOOM DOOM. I opened the door and it was a cop and he goes "Bob Smith?" and I say "no". And he goes "He live here?" and I said "No, I have lived here for months, and before me it was a lady". Turns out the cop was catching up on one of the huge backlog of warrants that they always have. The guy who he was looking for hadn't lived there in years. The cop never even looked at my ID, he just took my word for it and left.
posted by ND¢ at 5:56 AM on February 7, 2007

My guess: interested in whether you were a witness to something.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 5:58 AM on February 7, 2007

In some jurisdictions, the sheriff's office performs service of process for both civil and criminal issues. It could be a summons, a subpoena, a notification of a claim, etc.
posted by RichardP at 6:00 AM on February 7, 2007

Not to be all doom and gloom, but when my sister had a major car accident, the Sheriff cam over to personally notify us she had been gravely injured (She's fine now - this was years ago).

And the other time I got paid a visit it was when I broke up a fight -- charges were later filed and the Sheriff dropped off a supoena to appear as a witness at the trial.

It could mean a lot of things. YMMV.
posted by Heminator at 6:02 AM on February 7, 2007

(Noticing that you're in RVA) I owed VCU about $1200 in unpaid tuition a few years ago; they filed something in court to get their money from me, and the sherriff's office left a card the first time they tried to deliver the summons. Once I had the summons, I called up the VCU collections office, set up a payment plan, and never had to deal with the cops or the courts. I think in Richmond, the Police deal with crime, and the Sherriff's office handles civil matters. Good luck -- and post a follow-up!
posted by junkbox at 6:11 AM on February 7, 2007

I'm going to second Clyde Mnestra in that they want to know if you witnessed anything. This happened to me, they wanted to know if anyone had seen the neighbors down the hall being broken into over labor day. I was freaked out at first though!
posted by ronmexico at 6:14 AM on February 7, 2007

I would investigate getting a lawyer. The last time this happened to me, bad things happened...
posted by fvox13 at 6:16 AM on February 7, 2007

If it was something serious, they wouldn't want to give you advance warning so you could run away. All the above are good possibilities. Make minimal efforts to call them, and then forget about it unless they come back.
posted by raf at 6:18 AM on February 7, 2007

I got one of those -- I was a witness at a traffic accident, and they wanted to tell me when the court date was. I've also had the local sheriff drop off a notice from my folks' local cops saying that I'd been listed as a local point of contact should anything happen while they were out of town.
posted by jlkr at 6:31 AM on February 7, 2007

Seconding raf on this one. Whatever it was surely wasn't an issue. I've had cards left before, and it was always for something that I was barely related to (witness, etc).
posted by dead_ at 6:33 AM on February 7, 2007

IANAL - but I spent five years working closely with my city's sheriff's office (I was a tax collector)

It depends on the jurisdiction of your town's sheriff. If their jurisdiction includes criminal law enforcement - then likely its in regard to a subpoena or questioning as a witness in another case. Not a big deal.

If their jurisdiction is solely civil process - the card is likely to serve you with a 'warrant in debt' for an unpaid bill (aka they are suing you in small-claims court). Again, not really a big deal.

Finally - as a 'good news' bit - you could have a friend or acquaintance who is applying for a job with the department and used you as a reference. Especially in suburban and rural areas, it is common for these calls to be made in-person and not by phone.
posted by Fuka at 7:12 AM on February 7, 2007

I got a summons this way once, to appear as a witness.
posted by rokusan at 7:21 AM on February 7, 2007

LOL This takes me back a few! I had this friend and she came home to the place where she was staying (a friends) and they said that a sheriff stopped by and left his card and said either call or stop by the sheriff's office. She decided to stop by their office and she had a warrant out for not appearing in court for an accident that she had several years prior. Long story short I bailed her out and she went to court and got it all resolved. Not to scare you! It was just my lame story. I had a card on my door once and I called and they were looking for donations for the local DARE program.
posted by scooters.toad at 7:22 AM on February 7, 2007

Go ahead and call the number, just don't do it from home and don't tell them when you'll be home, in case it's someone trying to serve you.
posted by electroboy at 7:24 AM on February 7, 2007

Fuka beat me to it. Your name may have been given as a reference by someone applying for a job.
posted by onhazier at 7:32 AM on February 7, 2007

It happened to me when someone complained about our bushes making it hard for drivers to see. So, I t could be no big deal.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:33 AM on February 7, 2007

When my mother-in-law was in a car accident, police left a card on her door when they wanted her to call so they could ask her a few questions.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:37 AM on February 7, 2007

Like everyone's said, it could be anything. electroboy has good advice re: followup, if you are nervous and want to cover your ass.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 8:49 AM on February 7, 2007

In my apartment days I got a card on our door a couple of times. There were warrants out for the guy that used to live in my apartment.

When I lived elsewhere, one Sunday the FBI showed up at my door. A guy who robbed a bank that morning had been identified and used to live in my apartment.

At another rental house we had guys show up a couple of times trying to collect personal debt, as well as Rentway to do a repo, for the people that used to live in our house.

You haven't given us much info to go on. But basically if you haven't lived in your place for more than a year or two, you might as well assume whoever was there was a dirtbag. Otherwise, if you've been in place for awhile, yeah, it's a summons or some other matter.
posted by rolypolyman at 8:51 AM on February 7, 2007

My experience: We had a coke dealer living at our skeevy apartment before us, and the cops finally came over for a visit while we were gone and left a note on the door. I called the PD and told them so-and-so doesn't live here anymore and that was all. We also had a letter the next day informing the coke head that she was due in court and missed it, et cetera. We got to look her up on the court system online and see all the fun stuff she did!
posted by sian at 9:16 AM on February 7, 2007

This happened to my boyfriend in Louisiana a couple of years ago. It turned out they were looking for an entirely different person who happened to have the same first name, last name, and middle initial. Calling them back cleared it right up.
posted by slenderloris at 10:57 AM on February 7, 2007

rainbaby, PLEASE READ UP ON YOUR RIGHTS before you interact with the police. It's probably nothing, but if it turns out to be something you could place yourself in legal jeopardy by inadvertently waiving your rights.

If the police return to your home, do not invite them in and do not step outside to talk to them. Interact with them through your door way only.
posted by wfrgms at 12:31 PM on February 7, 2007

Just had this happen, as a matter of fact:

The guy across the street had his garage broken into, and our second-story windows have a decent view of the crime scene - the officer was just canvassing for witnesses, and had left his card because no one was home at the time.

There's a good chance the deputy was canvassing the neighborhood for information. If you have no idea why, you're porbably not a witness. ;-)
posted by Crosius at 12:41 PM on February 7, 2007

Response by poster: Mistaken Identity. The deputy mis-read the first digit of the house number. I carry large amount of natural guilt and anxiety, and healthy skepticism of The System, so I was really sweating. That's a good link, wfrgms, thanks. Thanks for all the answers, it helped me through the day.
posted by rainbaby at 12:53 PM on February 7, 2007

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