Palm Beach News

Here’s Everything That’s Been Left in the Palm Beach County Courthouse’s Amnesty Box This Year

If you’ve been inside a courthouse lately, you may have noticed that just before the metal detectors, there’s an “amnesty box” where you can abandon anything that, for whatever reason, you might not want to take through security.

What exactly gets left in those boxes? We filed FOIA requests with the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office and Broward Sheriff’s Office to find out. Weirdly, the BSO said they don’t keep a record, which seems like a terrible idea. Shouldn’t you document how many brass knuckles and cans of mace you’re collecting?

The PBSO provided a 94-page list of everything that’s been placed in the amnesty boxes at county courthouses over the past year. The most popular items are knives (1,880 in total, including two intended for filleting fish), nail files (1,198), and hair picks (924.)

As for firearms, the PBSO listed just one orange plastic gun, one “stun gun device in pink plastic case,” six bullets, ten rounds, and three toy water guns. Surprisingly, no one seems to have turned over any illegal drugs, although someone did leave behind a five-ounce flask of whiskey.

Many of the surrendered items raise the question, “Why would you bring that to a courthouse, anyway?” In the past year alone, deputies have turned up 260 corkscrews, 268 box cutters, and 146 screwdrivers that they found in the amnesty box. Sure, it's pretty reasonable to have a nail file in your purse, but why are there that many people in Palm Beach County walking around with corkscrews in their bags? And can you really not leave home without your screwdriver?

It’s pretty easy to see how seatbelt cutters, bent keys, and letter openers could be used for nefarious purposes. Some of the others items on the list require a little more imagination. Can selfie sticks really be used as a weapon? AAA batteries? Laser pointers? Hairspray? A baseball? Why did 28 people feel the need to hand over their tape measures? Based on the fact that the log also includes two coffee cups, an orange, and a broken cell phone, it sounds like some people may be mistaking the amnesty box for a trash can.

Interestingly, one item that shows up in the log again and again is handcuff keys. The PBSO collected a grand total of 90 over the past year. This is significant because as we now know, Dayonte Resiles managed to escape from the Broward County Courthouse after he unlocked his own handcuffs. So far, the BSO has declined to answer questions about where he got the key. Turns out it may not have been so hard to find.

You can read the whole list below: 
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Antonia Farzan is a fellow at New Times. After receiving a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, she moved to South Florida to pursue her dream of seeing a manatee and meeting DJ Khaled (ideally at the same time). She was born and raised in Rhode Island and has a BA in classics from Hamilton College.