My Possessions are Being "Held Hostage." What are My Legal Rights?

I’ll try to make this as to-the-point as possible without rambling and turning this into a Pit-worthy rant, so bear with me here.

I was in a relationship with a girl (I would say “woman,” but the way she has acted lately has made me change my mind) for about two-and-a-half months, during which time I would spend consecutive days at her apartment. Naturally, I would bring a change of clothes with me. I went to her place one morning after work (as had been the norm at that point) and she told me she wanted time for herself, and she would get ahold of me when she wanted to see me again. So I came home and left my things there (which included clothes as well as other possessions, i.e. the charger for my cell phone) with the naive intention of returning at some point in the future.

After deciding that I wasn’t the right person to be in a relationship with, she avoided me for about a week or so before I was finally able to ask her about the status of my things. She was highly uncooperative, answering almost every question with “I don’t know” or something similar.

Long story short, she boxed up my things and gave them to her brother, who was supposed to bring them to me at work. (or at least, that’s how the story goes.) Unfortunately, I had quit that job a day or so before that happened, so the delivery was never made.

Last night my wonderful ex and I had an ever-so-pleasant conversation on AIM, which eventually involved her brother. He is 18, but half the time he acts like he’s 10, as is evident by his behavior in the conversation. He told me I could get my things back through the mail if certain “demands” were met. (I have to send money to their family to make up for all the food I ate, which apparently is in excess of $100 :rolleyes: as well as issue a written apology to their father for being “a shtty employee and making him look bad," [he is the one who got me my last job] and apologize “sincerely and not in writing” for all the "bad sht” I said to my ex since the breakup.) If these demands were not met, he said, there were other options: “We can fight. If you beat my ass, you get your stuff back. If I beat your ass, I burn your stuff.”

So, would calling a lawyer (or the police) be a waste of time? Should I just go ahead and send them the money and the stupid apology? What are my other options that don’t involve fighting? These people (the brother mostly, who is in possession of my things) are very difficult to reason with.

Oh, and FTR, the conversation we had was not saved, even though in retrospect it probably should have been.


They have committed theft, and you have th right to pursue them in criminal and/or civil actions if you weant to. IANAL, but, I, er, watch the People’s Court quite a bit, and cases such as this come up all the time.

If the property has only a small value (say, less than $100), I’d just eat the loss and get on with life, as trying to get it back would be more hassle than it’s worth. Under no circumstances, however, would I meet their ludicrous “demands”.

Assuming you have some means of demonstrating that property of significant value that you own has been taken by them, and wish to take this issue to the limit, here is what I would do:

Explain to them that if they do not return your property you will put the police on them, and may sue them in small claims court. Make sure you have a reliable witness to this conversation; sending a registered letter itemizing the goods and demanding their return would be useful as well. If they refuse to hand the goods over, call the cops, and swear out a complaint alleging theft on their part. Even if the police do not pursue the matter, you will at least have a copy of their report to use in your small claims action.

With the police report in hand, file a case in your local small claims court. Itemise the goods stolen and calculate fair (i.e. used market) values for the items. It will cost you a day or two of time, and there’s little chance you will get the full replacement value for the items, but chances are good you will either get the items back or receive partial compensation for their theft. You will at least have the satisfaction of having caused the thieves some hassle for their actions.
Good luck.

You can probably take them to small claims court. I hope you were wise enough to save the AIM. I would start the process by: Sending your ex a certified letter asking for the return of your posessions and stating that the consequense of not returning them will be small claim courts. In the letter make note of the fact that you have saved the AIM (include a printout.) I would also stop by the police station and ask to file a report. The police will probably not help you, but you build a stronger case by having filed.

Do you have any friends who are lawyers? Probably a well-worded letter from a lawyer on company letter head would get the results you want.

Good luck.

I’d call the cops, especially since they seem to be threatening you.


A) Write off the stuff and move on with your life

B) Report the matter to the police. It is theft and he will probably think twice about keeping your stuff once a couple of cops show up at his house.
B.1) Next step is to call a small claims attorney

C) Wait until no one is home, throw a brick through the back window, go in, take your stuff (plus maybe a little interest :D) and go.WARNING: This may be construed as illegal in certain…well, all States.

D) Beat his ass. It is unlikely he will return your stuff since he will be bitter about having his ass kicked. (Obviously he would not have challenged you unless he felt he could win). So really beat his ass good. I’m talking about a six weeks in a hospital, eats his food with a straw for the rest of his life ass whooping. Then throw a brick through his cars windshield and take a shit in his house. Send a firm message to anyone else who gets the same idea that your stuff is not to be fucked with. That YOU are not to be fucked with! Of course this also may not be “legal” in your particular location.

I won’t go into Option E since it may involve certain violations of internation law in the areas of international trade, war crimes, and treatment of farm animals.
Personally, I recommend Option B. You will notice that with each option there is an increasing level of satisfaction but also an increasing level of effort and personal risk on your part. I think B provides a nice ballance.

Well, if you do the math and decide to write the lost items off, you can always send a nice greeting card with “I’ve decided to let you keep the stuff with a hearty FUCK YOU” as your final contact with this nutty family.

Then never approach or speak to or accept calls from any of them ever again. Don’t even accept the items back, as they may try to seek revenge by breaking them first or urinating on them or doing something else icky. Call it a life lesson and move on.

Contact the cops.

First get a witness to this abuse.

See if you can get an exchange of e-mails, or physical mail for evidence.

Then, the cops.

Update this, & let us know how things go.

I talked with a friend of mine who was in a somewhat similar situation with an ex; she is not a lawyer, but she has told me that unless I have $500 worth of stuff, I have no case in small claims court. I don’t know if this is the case or not; any lawyer-type people care to chime in? I’m seriously considering calling the cops and/or a lawyer, but I won’t waste my time if I don’t have a case.

I didn’t mention in the OP that we live in totally different cities and counties. Is jurisdiction a factor in any of this?


I am a law student, and do not live in Michigan. Looking on the Web, I find:

  1. A small claims court cannot and will not order your goods returned to you; they can only assess monetary damages. An action for “claim and delivery” may result in return of your goods, but I do not think this goes through small claims.

  2. Even if you win, the court cannot make them pay. You may seek garnishment of wages, but it’s going to get expensive. If you win an order of delivery, you may need to pay the sheriff to recover the goods.

  3. There is no minimum claim. However, there are many court fees, and very small claims must be balanced against the possibility of losing. If you win, YOU must collect your court costs from the defendant, not the court.

  4. The cause of the action for which you are suing must have occurred, or the defendant you are suing must live or do business, in the city or district where you are filing.

I know it’s easy for me to say but forgetaboutit. Get on with your life.

The best revenge is living well. :slight_smile:

Oh, one more thing. If a woman tells you she needs time to yourself and she’ll call you when she wants to see you again - your out buddy. Decisions already been made. :smiley:

Small claims has no bottom restrictions, just limits on how high you can go. IANAL. You can bring a suit for a quarter, if you want to piss people off.

I’d agree with calling the police. Tell them they have your stuff and won’t give it back, and you just want it back. Ask to have a police officer to come out and talk to them. If they don’t want to send someone out, just keep saying “I just want my stuff back.” With luck, the ex and her brother will back down and give you your stuff back if the police come by and talk to them. I wouldn’t try to get them arrested or anything.

Even small claims court sounds a bit extreme until you’ve tried the police first.

Actually the best revenge is trick someone into eating their parents and making them cry in front of Radiohead (like Cartman did to Tenorman on Southpark).

Sorry for the bump, but isn’t this whole situation almost extortion? I mean, they have things that rightfully belong to me and are trying to get me to give them money for their return. So not only is it theft, but I can’t help but think that extortion might also be involved here.


Yeah, I figured that one out. Like I said, I kept my stuff there being naive, and because it was 8:00 in the morning and I was tired and didn’t feel like gathering it up. But you’re right … should have seen it coming.

And, suppose I go ahead with the small-claims court, and once they ( ex-gf and brother) are notified, my things are destroyed? I can’t have them returned, but I can be reimbursed for the money; anything else? I really would like to know all of my legal options, even though at this point I’m leaning towards “the hell with it all.”


Do you have a record of the AIM conversation? The police certainly would consider tossing in extortion into the list of possible charges when they contact the ex. The chances of them being charged with that are virtually nil, but often cops would prefer to just get things resolved so they don’t have to deal with the courts, so scare tactics are often employed. Don’t expect too much from the cops, they are overworked as it is. But a police report and maybe a phone call will be made, so if it does reach small claims, you have a better footing. IF it does reach small claims, and they DO wreck all your stuff, you certainly have it within your right to claim malicious intent, and go for extra damages.