This is from an important organization you should visit called FEAR (Forfeiture Endangers American Rights):
Today a new FEAR member called and related his story.æ He was driving across the South with a group of friends on their way to Las Vegas on vacation.æ They were stopped by cops in Texas for some obscure traffic infraction — driving in the passing lane, as I understand it.æ The police searched and found cash money, and seized it.æ A drug dog was brought and he alerted to the money — that was the official excuse for seizing it.æ No one was arrested or even cited for the traffic infraction.æ The hapless vacationers stayed in Texas for days fighting the system to try to get the money back. All they got was the “run around.”æ The local authorities kept claiming they were on the verge of giving it back, and then decided instead to turn it over to the Feds for forfeiture under the Federal Adoption* program.æ (*This program, called “Equitable Sharing” by the Justice Department, allows state and local police to seize property — even if they couldn’t forfeit it under the requirements of their state’s forfeiture law.æ The local agency gets up to 90% of the profits of the federal forfeiture.)
They must have been drug dealers — what other reason would there be for carrying cash on your way to Las Vegas? (Note: Cocaine contamination spreads between bills from banks’ bill-sorter belts, so its most likely that the cash in your wallet would test positive for cocaine. The drug dog could have alerted to that, or it could have been one of the 80% or so times that drug dogs false alert.)
Although some laws have been passed to reduce forfeiture abuses, this kind of thing goes on all the time.
It is unconscionable to have schemes that allow law enforcement to seize assets and keep the profits for their budget. It makes corruption way too tempting.
For those who haven’t been following asset forfeiture, here’s the quick primer:
- Law enforcement identifies something they want (cash, car, plane, house)
- They tie it to a drug activity (sometimes that tie could be “only drug dealers would have that much cash”)
- They do this neat little trick that essentially involves charging the property with being part of a drug crime. This means several things:
- They don’t need to actually charge the owner of the property or prove that the owner was involved in anything illegal
- The property, not being human, is not afforded the “innocent until proven guilty” principle, so instead, you have to prove that the property is innocent.
- The Fourth Amendment rights of the property owner are conveniently bypassed.
- If the state has laws to limit asset forfeiture abuse, law enforcement will get a federal agent involved and make it a federal forfeiture, thus avoiding those pesky state laws. The feds will take a small percentage and give the rest back to the locals who seized the property. The feds like to encourage this kind of corruption and love sticking it to the voters who tried to end the abuse in their state.