United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Christopher Daniel Gay, Pro Se Plaintiff.
P. Jones United States District Judge.
plaintiff, Christopher Daniel Gay, a Virginia inmate
proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Upon review of the complaint, I
conclude that the action must be summarily dismissed.
Amended Complaint and attachments present the following
sequence of events related to his claims. Gay is currently an
inmate at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Meadowview,
Virginia. On January 28, 2019, after a traffic stop, Smyth
County Sheriff's Deputies arrested Gay on unspecified
charges. From Gay's person, the deputies seized $12, 500
in cash and a locked cell phone. Records available online
indicate that Gay has several serious criminal charges
pending against him in state court, including eluding police,
three counts of attempted capital murder of a law enforcement
officer, and possession of a firearm and ammunition as a
convicted felon. A hearing related to these charges is
scheduled for August 15, 2019.
to Gay, however, the money and cell phone are unrelated to
the criminal charges for which he was arrested. He claims
that he and his fiancée had saved the money to
purchase a landscaping truck. Gay has allegedly made several
unsuccessful efforts, through court motions and letters to
the Smythe County sheriff and the mayor of Marion, Virginia,
to have the money and the cell phone released to Gay's
fiancée, a nurse in Tennessee with no criminal record.
Gay has received no response from the sheriff or the mayor on
the issue. Now Gay brings this § 1983 action against
these officials, claiming that I can order Smyth County
officials to release the money and the cell phone to the
fiancée as Gay demands.
unable to grant the relief that Gay seeks. In essence, he is
appealing to this federal trial court, seeking reversal of
the order or orders issued by the Smyth County General
District Court that refused to require return of the seized
cash and cell phone. Lower federal courts, like this one, do
not have appellate jurisdiction to review or reverse rulings
of any state court. Plyler v. Moore, 129 F.3d 728,
731 (4th Cir. 1997). Jurisdiction for appellate review of
state court judgments lies exclusively with superior state
courts and, ultimately, with the United States Supreme Court.
Id. at 731; 28 U.S.C. § 1257. Thus, I have no
jurisdiction under § 1983 to address Gay's
contention that the state court erred in failing to order
return of his property items.
cannot find that Gay has alleged any actionable § 1983
claim against the defendants for allowing law enforcement
officials to retain the property items seized upon Gay's
arrest. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens against
unreasonable searches and seizures. U.S. Const. amend. IV.
The initial seizure of the items in Gay's possession when
he was arrested was not unreasonable. Chimel v.
California, 395 U.S. 752, 763 (1969) (“[I]t is
entirely reasonable for the arresting officer to search for
and seize any evidence on the arrestee's person in order
to prevent its concealment or destruction.”). It is
also reasonable for government officials to retain lawfully
seized property items so long as they have a
‘“continuing interest'” in that
property, such as an ongoing criminal investigation.
United States v. Carter, 859 F.Supp. 202, 204-05
(E.D. Va. 1994). With multiple criminal charges pending
against Gay in Smyth County, and the potential of additional
charges against him in Tennessee related to a theft, he has
failed to state facts showing why law enforcement officials
have no continuing interest in the seized property items.
Accordingly, I conclude that Gay's submissions fail to
state any viable claim that the continued retention of the
items at this time constitutes an unreasonable seizure in
violation of his rights.
stated reasons, I will summarily dismiss this case, pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), for failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted.
separate Order will be entered herewith.
 According to an online news source, at
the time of Gay's arrest, investigators had been
searching for him for months as a suspect in a theft in
Tennessee. See Nick Beres, ‘Little Houdini'
Arrested after High Speed Chase, News Channel
5-Nashville (Jan. 29, 2019, 4:36 PM),