Civil Asset Forfeiture

Victim of Airport Seizure Gets His $11,000 Back With Interest

Charles Clarke was robbed by cops who said his suitcase smelled like marijuana.


Institute for Justice

Charles Clarke, the college student who was robbed of $11,000 in cash by cops at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport two years ago, will get his money back with interest under an agreement he reached with the Justice Department this week. Claiming Clarke's checked suitcase smelled of marijuana, the cops argued that the money in his carry-on bag must have something to do with drugs, which would make it forfeitable under federal law. But Clarke challenged the forfeiture with help from the Institute for Justice, and the government blinked.

Clarke, who admitted smoking pot but insisted he had never sold it, had saved the money over five years from wages, financial aid, and family gifts. He took it with him for safekeeping while visiting relatives in Cincinnati and was stopped on the way back to his home in Florida by an airport detective and a local police officer who had been deputized by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Their agencies benefit from federal forfeitures through the Justice Department's Equitable Sharing Program.

To take the money, the cops needed only probable cause to believe it was connected to illegal drug activity in some way; they did not even have to specify how. The forfeiture complaint was, as usual in such cases, maddeningly vague, claiming the money "was furnished or intended to be furnished in exchange for controlled substances, was proceeds traceable to such an exchange, or was intended to be used to facilitate the illegal sale of narcotics." Although the cops found no drugs in Clarke's bags or on his person and did not charge him with a crime, the pot smell and the large amount of cash were enough to make the money disappear.

To keep the money, the government theoretically had to show that it more likely than not came from selling drugs or was intended to buy them. But that burden applied only if Clarke had the means to challenge the forfeiture once the government had taken his savings. Innocent owners often find that standing up for their rights costs more than the value of the property they are trying to get back. Luckily for Clarke, he had the Institute for Justice in his corner.

"Charles is very pleased that he will get his life savings back and that the whole ordeal is now behind him," said I.J. attorney Darpana Sheth. "Civil forfeiture is wrong. It allows law enforcement to seize and keep property without ever charging someone with a crime. Even worse, it encourages law enforcement to seize as much money and property as possible by allowing agencies to keep the proceeds for themselves. The Institute for Justice will continue to lead the fight to abolish civil forfeiture and end this perverse financial incentive."

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46 responses to “Victim of Airport Seizure Gets His $11,000 Back With Interest

  1. Have the cops who took the money been sanctioned and/or fired? At least tell me they’ve been re-trained.

    1. Obviously they’re on the hook for the interest.

      1. No, the taxpayers are. Which is only proper since they’re the ones that sanctioned this McFuckery in the first place.

    2. They deserve to arrested and charged with theft. It will never happen. In a just world, people who steal from other people would be held accountable for their actions.

      1. They are thug enforcers of a protection and extortion racket. They rambunctiously overstepped the usual boundaries. In a just world, people who coerce taxes from other people would be held accountable for their actions.

      2. That’s why I have trouble dredging some care from GIveAFuck Bay when one of them stops a bullet.

        Organized crime with a badge, that’s what they are.

    3. The only way they’ve been fired is if they made some error that lead to the money being returned.

    4. By “sanctioned and/or fired”, you mean promoted, right? RIGHT?

  2. Good for him.

    Also, is that a Lando mustache or a Carlton from Fresh Prince mustache?

    1. Neither, it’s a Chris Tucker mustache.

      1. Which Tucker? Fifth Element, Friday, or Jackie Chan?

        1. shit, forgot Silver Linings Cookbook Tucker aka Fat Chris.

  3. Two years of anguish and having his life turned upside down, not to mention untold hours of working to get back his money…… doesn’t seem fair. Please tell me that “with interest” doesn’t mean the 0.25 percent I’m earning on my checking account.

    1. “Two years of anguish and having his life turned upside down, not to mention untold hours of working to get back his money…… doesn’t seem fair. Please tell me that “with interest” doesn’t mean the 0.25 percent I’m earning on my checking account.”

      Pretty sure the IJ does work like this without charging the client, but they still get paid (in part by me and I think a bunch of people who post here).
      But next time I end up in contact, I’m gonna see if they can recover their costs from the agency who lost.

    2. My idea of “interest” is removing the testicles of every cop involved (and the DA) and running them through a woodchipper.

      I’m to the point where I believe the Middle Kingdom had the right idea: You want to wield enormous power, the power of life and death, over the populace? Turn in your balls. You get to keep them pickled in a clay jar so they can be buried with you when you die.

  4. Stuff like this is absolutely terrifying. Imagine if something like this was ever reported on the news. Like CNN talked about it for 5 minutes instead of hyper-ventilating that Trump claims to have bigger balls than Harry Reid. I honestly can’t even conceive of this happening.

    This stuff we see on Reason everyday…normal people don’t know about it at all. And it seems like it would be classified as “news”.

    And even if they did cover this, it would quickly turn to, “How does this affect Obama?” or “Trump tweeted that he once burned $11,000 in his fireplace on a dare.”

    1. When stuff like this does get reported on the news, it’s reported as: “how the drug war ravaging our cities can impact each of us” or “an unfortunate casualty in our neverending struggle against addiction” or some shit like that. Always praising the underlying failed policy, never questioning whether the policy really justifies the collateral damage.

      1. The only time “underlying policy” gets questioned by the MSM is when they want to present it as dangerous underregulation leading to dead babies/grandmas/sick people.

    2. This stuff we see on Reason everyday … is the faux news, man. Didn’t you get the memo?

  5. “With interest” means they beat him unconscious. right?

  6. “Officer, this money isn’t from selling weed. It’s for buying weed!”

  7. Clarke challenged the forfeiture with help from the Institute for Justice, and the government blinked.

    Phew. I immediately assumed the money would be consumed by atty’s fees.

    1. Remember the IJ when you’re handing out the big bucks this season.

      They’re doing God’s work in some of America’s toughest neighborhoods.

  8. Please tell me that “with interest” doesn’t mean the 0.25 percent I’m earning on my checking account.

    Get a load of Mister One Percenter and his preferential money market rates.

  9. who was robbed of $11,000 in cash by cops

    This is incorrect, law officers can’t break the law and robbery is against the law.

  10. See, this is why I keep my money suitcase separate from my weed suitcase at all times.

  11. his suitcase smelled like marijuana

    Oh, FFS! Test all cops for this “ability”; and if they fail, prohibit them from government employment for life.

  12. Maybe this was actually a plan to force him to save and earn interest?
    If he just kept it as cash on hand he was losing out to inflation…

    1. to save and earn interest

      Where do you live that this is possible?

  13. While I agree this is BS, let’s not pretend that a college kid with 11 grand that smells like pot isn’t a drug dealer.

    When I think “safe keeping” I think bank. Not suitcase.

    1. If a college kid deposited $11,000 in cash in a bank, the bank would have to file a Form 8300, which would be likely to lead to the money being seized on suspicion anyway. That would just be making it easier for them. If you think banks are good places for “safe keeping” of cash, you’re na?ve.

      1. He says he saved up this money over time. Why was it in an apartment where he can’t trust his roommates?

        Unless it wasn’t. It was proceeds from a recent drug deal.

        1. Why is that anyone else’s business?

          1. I’ll refer you back to my original comment. It’s BS, but let’s be honest. He’s a drug dealer.

            1. Why is that anyone else’s business?

  14. I try to enlighten friends and family on the injustices of asset forfeiture shit and all you get is blank stares. Idk if people just fully accept that government can raw dog you like this and so it’s not even newsworthy or (and I really hope its not this) they can’t envision injustices by the state so any such claim must be false.

    If I link this article to friends I might get a ‘shitty’ or two but no moral outrage. Which is just so confounding because moral outrage is working overtime in America.

    1. My experience is that they simply don’t believe me when I tell people how civil forfeiture works. You have to get them to look at reports from sources they trust to get through their disbelief. Even then, they might give the he-must-have-been-doing-SOMETHING-wrong we see from Bubba above.

      1. I’ve had people flat tell me I’m wrong when I tell them the government can take people’s money and property on mere suspicion, without a conviction, without even charging the person.

        Nope, I’m told, they can’t do that.

        People just have this naive view of government from TV and movies

        1. “People just have this naive view of government from TV and movies”

          Yeah, where’s The X Files? We need it more than ever.

          Like I said, it’s a waste of time to just tell people?they won’t believe you. They have to be willing to look at documentation from a source they’ll trust. I have succeeded at educating people when they were willing to do a few minutes of reading.

  15. Is there a spray out there that smells like weed? Cause I can think of some fun hijinks with a can of weed spray.

    1. Police cruisers, politician’s limos, judge’s front porch, etc.

  16. Civil Forfeiture, as it is so,etimes described would be more aptly named Theft Under Color of Law, which is what it is, Theft being writ large. the bums that pull these scams should criminally charged, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, alas we all know how unlikely that is.

  17. Interesting how the local LE have been coopted by DEA and other unconstitutional FedGov agencies to do their dirty work law enforcement for them…. but when Arizona want to have their local cops enforce immigration law, they get taken to court by the Feds and slapped down, laws overturned, penalties assessed/threatened, etc.

    Both are supposely related to enforcing federal level laws (the Controlled Substances act should not even exist…) yet for one, FedGov demands cooperation from local LE, for the other they sue local LE for enforcing it

    Can anyone say “double standard”?

    this asset forfeiture insantiy NEEDS TO END. One of the thing Trump’s government, including the COngress, need to address.

  18. I had $21,000 taken from me on April 1, 1980 at LAX by 3 customs agents. My lawyer told me they didn’t have to return it but he made a deal to get about half back to cover his fee + the $5K I had already paid him. I later regretted keeping this rep as we argued over many things during my felony trial for “making a false statement to a federal agent”. I lied when customs asked me how much money I was carrying. They didn’t need to ask because they intended on searching my person (strip) and luggage throughly. So why did they ask? They wanted to catch me in a lie. And I was not warned that any lie was a felony. Now I know not to talk to any LEO about anything. At that time I was ignorant. I was convicted and fined $2K + 3 years probation. The whole ordeal cost me about $28K.

    Note: These kinds of robbery/entrapment/unconstitutional stops have been going on for many decades, long before unconstitutional laws were passed to give the illusion of legality. The implication? Once force is granted to others for any purpose, no limits, no accountability are possible. Only a retraction of that grant will stop the injustice. In case you are not a politically astute, the grant of a moral blank check to initiate force is called: govt.

  19. So he actually thinks his money would be safer in a suitcase. Hope it wasn’t a checked bag.

  20. I haven’t gone inside an airport since the Feds took over the airports, but it’s getting to the point where I’m afraid to buy a used vehicle, suitcase, or even a coat, lest it smell like pot, currency, fear, or dog biscuits.

  21. Scratch a cop lightly, you find a tyrant and a thief.

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