Sheriff Discretion and Evictions

MEMO_COVER_use_sheriff+eviction+prevention

Executive Summary

Sheriffs are the so-called “tip of the spear” in eviction proceedings. While they do not instigate eviction proceedings or participate in court processes, sheriffs and their deputies in most states participate in the physical eviction process, which includes serving the writ that notifies tenants of their evictions, forcibly removing tenants from the property, and disposing of tenants’ possessions, which can include either putting them on the curb or placing items in storage (generally for a fee). 

As states and municipalities lift eviction moratoriums imposed in the immediate wake of COVID-19, sheriffs and their deputies will be the ones charged with physically evicting occupants who are unable to pay rent or their mortgage. But most voters think sheriffs should refuse to do so, at least during the current public health crisis. New polling from Data for Progress and The Justice Collaborative Institute shows that most voters oppose physically ejecting people from their homes, sometimes violently, during a pandemic:

  • 66% of respondents agreed that sheriffs should maintain the same “no eviction” policies from April and May, which is when most places put a halt on evictions.
  • 57% of respondents opposed the use of SWAT teams and forceful entry to eviction residents.