The Dangers of Asset Forfeiture


Writing at the blog of Americans for Forfeiture Reform, attorney Charles B. Frye has some sobering words of warning for those of you thinking about driving around with a large amount of cash in the car. He writes:

What are the risks of transporting large sums of cash when you're traveling?  Obviously, you could get robbed or get involved in an accident and lose the money.  Your car could catch on fire while you're buying gas and your currency could go up in smoke.  A number of bad things could happen if you carry a large amount of cash on you when you travel.  But, one risk that many folks never consider is that a law enforcement officer could decide to seize your cash, even if you are not committing a crime and the officer cannot show any reason to believe that you have committed a crime.

If you've never had a law enforcement officer stop you for a traffic violation and then ask for your "consent" to search your vehicle, you probably find it difficult to believe that you or any other "law abiding citizen" could become embroiled in a criminal case or a forfeiture lawsuit just because you happen to be carrying a large amount of currency.  But, it can, and does, happen.

Read the rest here. Read Radley Balko's 2010 Reason story on how asset forfeiture became the government's license to steal here.

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  1. But the Supreme Court would never allow this sort of extra-legal and blatantly un-Constitutional behavior to go on!

    1. It's a penalty, not a tax.

      1. It's a tax - AND a penalty!

        And a floorwax...


          (it tastes like bear-mace.)

  2. Asset Forfeiture is one of a few policies we allow that are completely inexplicable to me. Especially when you consider how difficult, costly, and how long it takes to get your property back, if innocent. I don't care if I just held up a bank, money I have in my pocket, is not the state's to take, without due process.

    1. Due process like income tax withholding?

    2. What is inexplicable about a policy that allows the government to take, and keep, your stuff, with only a contemptuous sneer in the general direction of due process?

      The reasons for it seem pretty self-evident to me.

      1. The reasons for it seem pretty self-evident to me.

        Because people like taking from other people shit that isn't theirs. Hence the last 10,000 years of popularity enojyed by theft in all its various forms, state-sanctioned or otherwise.

  3. The only possible reason why someone would carry a large amount of cash is that they are selling drugs.

    Therefore the cash belongs to the government unless the dealer can prove their innocence.

    1. Or dodging taxes, another reason to take it.

      1. That's the rationale for taking drug money. Untaxed income.

  4. So wait, what is the difference between the asset forfeiture situation and being robbed?

    1. I think it's the same as the difference between taxation and theft.

    2. So wait, what is the difference between the asset forfeiture situation and being robbed?

      The person doing the robbing seizing.

      1. Best explanation of taxes/theft I have read:

        But expropriation would be wrong even if each of its causes were good. Consider the following progression:

        On a dark street, a man draws a knife and demands my money for drugs.
        Instead of demanding my money for drugs, he demands it for the Church.
        Instead of being alone, he is with a bishop of the Church who acts as bagman.
        Instead of drawing a knife, he produces a policeman who says I must do as he says.
        Instead of meeting me on the street, he mails me his demand as an official agent of the government.

        From Carl Watner

    3. When you're being robbed the police are supposed to help you.

      When the police rob you no one will help you.

      1. When you're being robbed the police are supposed to show up an hour later and fill out a report.

        1. No. They are supposed to help you. Really, they are.

          That's not what they actually do, though.

          I got robbed and made the mistake of calling the cops. They ran me for warrants, questioned me, searched me for drugs, and when they didn't find anything they left.

          They didn't bother with a report.

          1. This must be why SOCMOB exists.

            "I'z just standin' on the corner, mindin' my own bidness..."
            "And then what."
            "He got shot."
            "So you saw who did it?"
            "But, you were...how...?"
            "I'z just standin' on the corner, mindin' my own bidness and he got shot. I didn't see nothin'...jes mindin' my own bidness..."

            No wonder...

            1. Except that SOCMOB usually applies to the person who gets shot, not the witness, as I understand it. That's why ER staff quip that SOCMOB is apparently the most dangerous thing you can be doing.

          2. I nearly got mugged a few years back, luckily I could still run well back then.

            The cops did file a report, but not after they were absolutely convinced that I wasn't trying to buy drugs from the car full of black dudes who chased me for 2 blocks and then sat outside my house for 10mins, apparently considering how far they wanted to take their criminality that day.

            Lesson Learned: never approach cars full of any color of dudes, even if they claim to need directions. Helping people doesn't pay.

            (one of the fuckers did end up going to jail. he got caught stealing something else the very same day,)

            1. another lesson: if people are chasing you, don't run home. just keep running.

    4. The warm feeling you get knowing your property is being repurposed to support the local SWAT team?

      1. It's better if we spread it around a little.

    5. So wait, what is the difference between the asset forfeiture situation and being robbed?

      Insurance protects against theft.

    6. You get a receipt.

  5. The police will sieze ANY amount of cash if they want to, large or small. I was once pulled over, refused consent, arrested, and let go hours later with an empty wallet that had $120 in it before I was pulled over. "We'll mail you a check for your cash next week."

    1. I've had the same and it was $27. Twenty seven fucking dollars.

      1. Did they shake all the change out of your pants too?

      2. Did you both get your checks? It's absurd either way, but just wondering if they were BS'ing you on top of that.

        1. I didn't get jack shit. Not that I actually expected anything.

          1. Apparently your money was found guilty of something.

        2. I did, two weeks later. Since I was 100 miles from home, in the middle of rural America, had to pay exorbitant ATM fees. This was over a decade ago, it's not like the cow towns had ATM's all over back then. Two banks in town, and one didn't have an ATM. None at the gas stations.

          The inconvenience didn't make me mad, it was the principle. Cutting a check is more work and a waste of resources. So they shake the taxpayers down in absentia, too.

  6. Never, ever, under any circumstances whatsoever should you "consent" to a search by police. This is the dumbest thing any American can do.

    1. I suppose people consent to searches to avoid being arrested. You are correct though, consenting to searches is a very dumb plan.

      1. If they search you after you refuse consent, they better have probable cause or you can expect to see some $$$ from their department.

        And before you refuse consent, you need to make sure you start secretly recording the incident. Or better yet, make sure you are recording every interaction with the police in its entirety. But be sure not to let them know you have done so until you are in the courtroom and they've already lied under oath.

        1. Right, but most people don't know or do that.

        2. Better yet you don't give them an excuse to bother you.

          1. So don't drive or walk in public?

            1. Good ideas, both!

            2. I haven't been harassed by cops since I cut my hair, stopped wearing jeans and concert shirts, got a car so they wouldn't see me walking in public, and just to be on the safe side I moved to a rural area in a different state.

              It can be done.

              1. There's a lot to this approach, given that many times cops harass for conspiracy to wear baggy pants (or be black, or listen to loud music).

                1. conspiracy to wear baggy pants (or be black, or listen to loud music).

                  Iv'e been told it's not racist if you can't support it with statistics.

          2. If you've done nothing wrong, you have no reason to worry. Seriously.

        3. "But be sure not to let them know you have done so until you are in the courtroom and they've already lied under oath."

          So that you can be prosecuted for illegal wiretapping?

          1. Recording of cops has been upheld as legal every time it has been challenged in court.

        4. Correct me if I'm wrong, but often times don't the cops take a refusal to consent to a search as PC that you are doing something wrong?

          1. Yes. Just like trying to avoid a DUI checkpoint means you're DUI.

          2. Yes, but they cannot legally do so. They at least have to come up with some bullshit reason that gives them a fig leaf.

            1. "I smelled something burning and saw a green, leafy substance."

          3. Correct me if I'm wrong, but often times don't the cops take a refusal to consent to a search as PC that you are doing something wrong?

            On two occasions in the last 20 years, I've been pulled over in Florida and asked to consent to a search of my vehicle. Both times I refused. Both times I spent an hour on the side of the road while the cops ran my license for warrants and on one occasion brought out a k9 unit (I assume to frighten me since they never actually brought the dog out of the car to sniff around). Both times they argued with me that "if I had nothing to hide then why wouldn't I consent to a search?" Both times they told me that they were going to let me go with a speeding ticket since they had nothing to hold me on but let me know that they thought I was a lying piece of shit.

            I count myself lucky that they weren't crooked enough to invent probable cause.

        5. they better have probable cause

          Not exactly a tough standard these days.

          1. Terry stop. The car might have had a weapon.

            1. The car is the weapon.

              1. The car is the weapon.

                Cop: "...license plate C as in chair, H as in Heap, R as in Rope, I as in Ivy, S as in OMG IT'S RUNNING ME OVER!!!!"

                Christine: *revs menacingly before speeding off into the night*

    2. This. 100%.

    3. Why isn't consenting to a search by police just called "Appeasement?"

      1. I think it's closer to "Surrender."

        1. It's apparently better than "resisting" in some cases

    4. But if you don't consent it can only be because you're hiding something. Now STOP RESISTING! And RESPECT MAH AUTHORITAH!!!

  7. what is the difference between the asset forfeiture situation and being robbed?

    You can shoot back in a robbery.

    1. You can shoot back in a robbery.

      Obviously you've never been to Chicago.

  8. Sitting on a pile of cash in your house makes it subject to forfeiture as well. A few years ago in Texas, police took over 300K from a guy who said he didn't trust banks, despite the only evidence of "wrongdoing" being the cash itself.

    1. Without a link, I can't believe you. Ha! Just kidding, I have no doubt that could happen. The dude's lack of trust in financial institutions probably bought the department a new tank.

      1. You're kidding, right?

        They don't pay for tanks. The feds hand them out for free.

        1. The feds don't hand out tanks - they hand out armored personnel carriers (APC) and mine resistant ambush proof vehicles (MRAP).

          I certainly don't agree that a police force inside the United States needs any such thing but to say that the local police are getting tanks is to bandy about the same sort of shit we complain about when the MSM describes all rifles as "assault weapons" or "machine guns".

          All it does is make us sound stupd and paranoid to our ideological opposites.

          1. The pawn shop called. You've only got a day left to pick up your sense of humor before they sell it.

            1. I only bring this up because its a common thing in articles on the subject and it just muddies the issue - and it really does make us sound bad (just as it makes gun-control advocates ound bad when they overstate the capabilities and dangers of guns).

              Even authors who seem very knowledgeble on the subject throw this hyperbole in and it just turns (me at least) off.

              Radley Balko, who does otherwise stellar work researching and writing about police militarization, is very guilty of this (to him, every armoed vehicle is a tank, which is funny since tanks are actually not very good infantry killers) and now on his site one of his guest bloggers has a good article up, but it tries to play up the minor differences in the caliber and power of handguns commonly used by law enforcement - even at one point saying "(and, often, magazines that would be illegal for an average citizen to even own)." which is completely untrue.

              1. since tanks are actually not very good infantry killers

                Infantry being armed and hostile soldiers.

                Civilians don't fare as well under the same circumstances.

              2. 'Tank' is a generic imprecise term, like 'blimp' or 'gun' or 'boat', all used slangishly in military conventions that cross over or disregard precise descriptions.

                A tank is any kind of big ass armored steel fighting vehicle, sometimes with motherfucking treads, but doesn't look like a truck or common four wheeled configured vehicle.

                The term 'tank' in regard to military vehicles started as nothing more than a code word to conceal the intended purpose of the equipment. APCs, which count as tanks, are not much different from the usage and configuration of early tanks.

                Calling an M113 a tank is like calling an AR15 a gun, but not like calling an AR15 a 'machine gun'.

  9. Obviously, you could get robbed ... But, one risk that many folks never consider is that a law enforcement officer could decide to seize your cash, even if you are not committing a crime and the officer cannot show any reason to believe that you have committed a crime.

    You repeat yourself. Most cops on the highway are literally engaging in highway robbery when they pull you over, whether to give you a bullshit ticket or this more overt kind of theft.

    1. I've been thinking about this - imagine how much money a state could save in salaries, benefits, and pensions if, instead of hiring a bunch of cops to patrol highways outside of cities for speeders and running a red queen's race to bring in enough money to cover the costs of the cops, They just had a small number of patrols whose only job is to look for people in distress on the highways.

      They just run up and down the highways looking for accidents or stranded travelers. You'd probably only need 10% of the current state police rolls to do that.

      1. I dunno. When the state troopers round here set up speed traps, they shell out hundreds of tickets in a matter of hours.
        Starting at $180 and going up from there, they generate quite a bit of revenue.
        And the ones in trucks who pull over every big rig in sight, forcing them to weigh in, show their logs, and whatnot, they feel they aren't doing their job if they don't find some violation.

        They pay for themselves nicely, but you don't see it since the money they generate goes into the general fund while they get paid out of another part of the budget.

        1. Yeah, but what happens is that they bring in a lot of revenue, union sees that and wants its cut, so they agitate for higher wages and more cops, now the money brought in doesn't go as for so we send out the new cops to bring in more money, repeat cycle.

          Stop having them bring in money and the numbers start to get cut. Personally I don't think that the average state trooper provides very much value for what he costs.
          The majority of their patrol time is checking on truckers (useful), speeding tickets (pretty pointless IMO on a road out in the middle of nowhere), and sleeping at road construction sites.

          Cut out those functions (especially the speeding tickets) that don't provide much value and the incentives to keep packing the rolls starts to go away.

          1. I'm only disagreeing with your saying that they don't pay for themselves.

            Otherwise I agree with you totally.

            Law enforcement should be about catching crooks and helping people, not generating revenue.

        2. I'm with sarcasmic on this one. Wasn't there a story on reason yesterday that said one town got 3/4 of its revenue from red light cameras? Shit, if they set up speed traps as well, they could actually pay for their own pensions.

      2. In Virginia it's VDOT that has such patrols.

        1. I'm in AZ, its state and county that patrols highways outside of municipalities and state and local inside.

          Off the highways its county or local police that patrol the roads.

      3. Agamammon, if you want to live in Somalia, just move to Somalia already.

        1. As soon as the FAA approves the rules for drone use inside the US, I won't have to.

          I can enjoy the dangers of having weddings destroyed by remote controlled aircraft *and* air conditioning.

          1. and Wi-F....*SIGNAL LOST*

  10. as usual, balko article SPOT ON

    having testified at a few asset forfeiture hearings, i have problems with the concept, with the understanding that the asset forfeiture laws and programs vary WIDELY state to state. like EVERYTHING in law enforcement, some are much better, more fair, more respective of rights, etc. than others.

    in my state, we have the burden to prove by a preponderance of evidence that the assets were obtained unlawfully (through contraband sales etc.).

    however, in some jurisdictions, etc. items will be SEIZED merely because there is a lot of money, etc. and then the person will have the burden to prove it's NOT contraband related, which is kind of fucking bullshit.

  11. This makes a lot of sesne dude, I like the sound of that.!


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