As an American citizen you have rights but your cash does not.
There’s a little known law on the books that allows the police to take your cash legally under the law of civil forfeiture. This law allows law enforcement officers to take assets from a person suspected of involvement in a crime or illegal activity without necessarily charging the property owner with wrongdoing.
This is a civil, as opposed to, criminal procedure. As such, the dispute is between law enforcement and property…like a pile of cash, which is suspected of having been involved in a crime. To recover the seized property, an owner must prove the cash or asset was not involved in criminal activity. He or she has to prove a negative! While civil asset forfeiture was originally designed to stop drug dealers and counterfeiters but has morphed into another government Bohemoth that literally allows the government to steal your cash and property.
It works like this. A police officer pulls you for an alleged driving violation. During the stop he gets your permission to search your car. During the search, he finds cash in an amount above the “norm” that he thinks you should be carrying. At this point, he seizes your cash and turns it in to his police superiors. Usually, he lets you go. Even if you are not charged with any violation, and have done nothing wrong, the police can and often do retain your cash.
It’s at this point, as you get back into your car without your money and drive away, completely innocent, that your battle begins.
In order to retrieve this cash, you are going to have to hire a lawyer, petition the court and then prove that the “excess cash” you had was not being used for or as a result of illegal activity. Our justice system is based on the notion of innocence until proven guilty; but, in this scenario your cash is guilty and the onus is on you to prove its innocence.
Good luck with that.
This is not some minor event that it taking place. Since 2008, the government has seized over 3 billion in assets from U.S citizens whose only crime was having cash on them at the time they were stopped by the police. If the citizen is unable or unsuccessful at getting his or her money back, the local government gets to keep 80% of the proceeds and the federal government getting a kickback of 20%.
If this sounds like a shake down or something out of a script from The Sopranos, well it is. A shakedown, that is. Not a script. In this racket, the “mafia” wears blue uniforms and has the ability to pull citizenry over at will. It is no secret within the gaming industry that gamblers have to be very careful when driving the outskirts of Las Vegas as “highway robbers” abound on the roadways. The robbers being police officers. The police know that if they can nab the right car, they might be able to capture a gambler with his winnings. For example, in 2014 Tan Nguyen was pulled over on a Nevada highway for going 3 mph over the speed limit. Police found over $50,000 in cash from his winnings at the casino which were confiscated on the spot.
The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states: “No person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
This practice of seizing money without criminal charges, and any legislative or judicial laws that enforce it, need to be abolished immediately in the spirit of the Constitution and in the interest of preserving liberty. No one’s cash or property is safe as long as this remains standard and sanctioned practice. The whole notion seems bizarre in light of the fact that our country was founded on principles of due process and property rights. The fact is that no one should be comfortable with a system that allows law enforcement to seize personal property without a finding of guilt or, in many cases, even leveling a criminal charge.
However, currently it seems Civil Forfeiture trumps the Constitution. It is big business for both local and federal governments and, like any business, the “operators” of that business are going to protect what they’ve built.
But what about we the people? Have we become so weak or willfully blind that the police now steal from us with impunity knowing that we will do nothing? Lest we and they forget, police are public servants paid by the citizens they are sworn to protect. With Civil Forfeiture they are double dipping… and… if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphors, this second bite of the apple (our money) is an unauthorized one that is a violation not only of the Constitution but our will as well.
It will take widespread public disclosure and civil disobedience against this license to steal if we can even hope to put an end to what can only be called a government devised, sanctioned and criminal con.