Civil Asset Forfeiture

Police Oversight Board Demands Answers After Dallas Cops Seized Traveler's Cash

And some state politicians are talking about asset forfeiture reform.


Last week the Dallas Police Department seized more than $100,000 in cash from an airport traveler. As the department detailed in a statement, a drug-sniffing dog alerted to the passenger's luggage, which police found to contain "nothing but blankets and two large bubble envelopes" containing $106,829 in cash. The police did not arrest the traveler but did keep the money, "subject to the civil asset forfeiture process."

Now a member of the city's oversight board is demanding answers. "What I want to know are: What are the rules? And did this woman break them?" Brandon Friedman, a member of Dallas's Community Police Oversight Board, said to a local CBS affiliate. He added: "It's not my business why someone's carrying $100,000 at the airport unless it's illegal, and from everything we've seen it doesn't seem to be."

A Dallas Police Department spokesperson told the station last week that "travelers are not allowed to board a plane with more than $10,000 of cash without declaring it, even on domestic flights." But there is no law, either state or federal, that says that. It's just that police are allowed to seize cash or other property merely on the suspicion that it was involved in illegal activity, and the owners must go to court to prove it wasn't. And in Texas, the law requires only a "preponderance of the evidence" before the police can take private property.

Egregious though it may be, there could be an upside to this story: Some Texas legislators, including House Speaker Dade Phelan, have responded to the incident by expressing a desire to reform the state's civil asset forfeiture laws.