War on Drugs

Dallas Police Seized an Airline Passenger's Cash. New Information Only Makes Their Case Weaker.

Police seized more than $100,000 in cash from a 25-year-old Chicago woman for not correctly describing what her suitcase looked like.


In December, Dallas police officers at the city's Love Field Airport seized a passenger's luggage based on an alert from a drug dog. There were no drugs in the bag, but they did find more than $106,000 cash wrapped in bubble wrap. The police seized the cash through asset forfeiture, but would not elaborate further on why the cash was seized or what the traveler was suspected of.

Now, further information has been released, which raises additional questions about the police department's story.

As Reason detailed at the time, there is no law regarding how much money a person can carry on a domestic flight. But under civil asset forfeiture, a law enforcement agency need only allege that the cash could have been used for criminal activity. In Texas, the standard of proof for seizing someone's cash or other property is simply a preponderance of the evidence, whereas to get the cash or property back, the owner would have to go to court to prove that they were not involved in criminal activity. Unless the property is returned, the police can keep a substantial portion of the proceeds.

This week, Dallas' local CBS affiliate obtained the police report related to the incident, in which the officers explained why they chose to ultimately seize the cash. After the drug-sniffing dog alerted them to a suitcase, police determined that since the bag was "destined for a known source city [Chicago] for the exportation of narcotics," then that was sufficient to search it. The detective conducting the search indicated "smelling the odor of marijuana," though the cash and some packing material were the suitcase's only contents.

Detectives located the traveler, a 25-year-old woman, and questioned her about the bag. They reported that she misidentified the suitcase as gray, rather than black, and that her description of the locking mechanism was inaccurate. They further asked if she was transporting cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine, to which she answered that she was not. When they asked if she was transporting marijuana, according to the affiliate's news story, "police noted she hesitated and her eyes darted to the left" before saying no. When they asked if she was carrying a lot of cash, she again hesitated and glanced to the left before saying that no, she had about $20,000, which she said was from the sale of a house, and some clothes.

On this basis, the police suspected that the cash could be "the result of the sales of illegal narcotics" and seized it.

What stands out in that description is the distinct absence of a crime. As stated, carrying large amounts of cash on a domestic flight is not illegal. While the bag may very well have smelled of marijuana, possession is perfectly legal in Illinois, where the traveler lives and was returning to. And the Dallas Police Department indicated, in the initial statement it provided to Reason in December, that the traveler was in Dallas on a layover, so even if she were engaging in drug trafficking, it would almost certainly have to have taken place wherever she had flown from.

Not to mention that once the detectives sat down with their suspect, the extent of her "suspicious behavior" was that she acted nervous, under-reported the amount of cash, and described the bag's physical appearance inaccurately. Admittedly, this could be the behavior of a devious narcotics trafficker caught in the act—or it could just as easily be the mannerisms of a nervous young woman being interrogated by police in the airport of an unfamiliar city.

Singling out darting eye movements as criminally suspicious evokes the explanations New York City police officers would use to justify that department's many "stop and frisk" encounters every year: Despite a minuscule number of searches ever turning up anything legally actionable, incident reports routinely accused the suspects of "furtive movements" or being in a "high crime area" to justify being accosted and searched.

Civil asset forfeiture, as currently practiced, is rife for abuse by police departments looking to pad their budgets. Luckily, this case has spurred some state and local authorities in Texas to look closer at possibly reforming the practice. When police are able to take someone's property simply by claiming that it could be used for criminal purposes, there is clearly plenty of room for improvement.

NEXT: Enjoy the Wild Ride of The Endgame While It Lasts

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  1. Clearly this woman didn't understand the first rule: If you have a big pile of money, government wants it.

    1. The second rule is if you have a medium pile of money, government wants it. Want to guess what the third rule is?

      1. If you have so much as a cent, the government wants it.

        1. Iand finally, if you don't have a cent and aren't willing to work to support yourself then the government wants to give you a very small pile of cash and keep a large pile for themselves.

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            1. not for long, government will take it

  2. The eighth and final rule is that if it's your first time transporting cash in a suitcase, you have to forfeit it to the government.

  3. What exactly was supposed to weaken the case? The lies and misidentification by her? Or are the police supposed to just hand over the the bag to anyone who doesn't claim it?

    1. come on, man, the bag was in the stream of endless suitcases at a large airport. It HAD to have had a bggage tag, identifying it as HERS and no one else's.

      How do we know her definition of "grey" is a bit different than that of the coppers? Some greys look almost black, some blacks look dark grey. Did they get a spectrophotmeter and mathmatically determine eXACTLY what colour the bag is, then have HER pick out of a pile of colour swatches the one that most resembles hers? Nah. they were to busy drooling greeen saliva down their chinny chin chins.

      1. Or, is it possible that it really was undeniably black?
        I've had luggage lost, I've known people who've had luggage stolen. I'm not sure why you would check a suitcase with $106,000 in. There has got to be a better way of transporting that much money. Also, how often when you've sold a house have you gotten cash? I mean my only experiences have been settling estates my grandparents, and we got a check. Which is a lot easier to transport and keep on your body, thus secure, than a suitcase full of cash. I'm sorry that part makes zero fucking sense to me.

        1. The bag identification itself is a nonsensical point. They clearly knew who the bag belonged to.

          But why are they on about that?

          Because they suspect her of being a drug mule.. only in this case, transporting cash for drug dealers instead of the drugs.

          This is, of course, due to banking regulations designed to prevent drug dealers from using banks (where transactions are traceable).

          So, the fact that she had a checked bag that she seemed unfamiliar with and it contained a wad of cash she was also not familiar with combined with the method of transport indicate that she is in fact transporting cash from a drug syndicate.

          1. you explanation is likely to be true - however

            The Fifth Amendment says to the federal government that no one shall be "deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law." The Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868, uses the same eleven words, called the Due Process Clause, to describe a legal obligation of all states.

            Asset forfeiture is a direct violation of 5A and 14A

            1. I tend to agree that the whole concept is extremely dubious. But this one does look like a drug-cash mule, so is it the hill you want to die on?

          2. she is in fact transporting cash from a drug syndicate.

            You think you can prove that in a court of law? The Dallas PD would probably like to hire you if that were the case. That must be why she was charged with a crime, right?

            Luckily we don't live in a country where you can be punished by the government on vague "suspicions" of wrongdoing without ever seeing the inside of a courtroom.

            1. The suspicions are not all that vague.

              I was merely addressing the initial narrative, which made no sense at all. Providing a more rational backstory makes things easier to comprehend.

              Step 2 should be easy too. Verifying the claimed source or the cash should be pretty straightforward.

              Still, lying about it and having no viable source for the funds should still not be enough to convict someone of a crime. At least, not by itself.

              1. So, sans any actual evidence that a person is in possession of illegal things, all the fuzz needs is to invent a "rational backstory" by which your things could be illegal. You know, to make it easier to comprehend.

                Oh, and I'm sure the police will be working extra hard to verify the source of that cash. Especially when they get to keep it if they fail to do so.

                "Still, lying about it and having no viable source for the funds should still not be enough to convict someone of a crime. At least, not by itself."
                Heck! You don't gotta worry about that. She didn't even get charged with a crime let alone convicted.

                It's just theft. It's blatant theft. It's theft and it's 100% legal because the thieves are sanctioned and issued badges.

        2. I see multiple TV commercials for those investors trying to buy your house. So cash sales are undoubtedly way up. that is of course assuming the cops were telling the truth in their report.

      2. Green definitely attracts copper

  4. It is the height of stupidity to carry large sums of money into an area where the US Constitution has been declared null and void.

    1. Such as within or outside of the borders of the United States.

    2. stupid maybe, but criminal? A "fine" of a undred large is excessive even fro being stupid. What ever happened to being "secure iin our houses, papers, effects, persons? That cash was certinly amongst her "effects".

      Beedy gurdy darstids, they are.

      1. "secure in our houses, papers, effects, persons?"

        That was then, this is now.

  5. Step One: Prevent people earning an income.

    Step Two: Collaborate with banks to freeze bank accounts and seize assets.

    Step Three: When people empty their bank accounts so they can have cash, accuse them of criminal activity and seize all their cash.

    Liberty or Death.

  6. You know who else got their cash seized and bank accounts frozen?

    1. Online poker players?

    2. Willing sex workers?

      (this IS reason, after all)

    3. Canadian Truckers?

    4. Imelda Marcos?

  7. When they asked if she was transporting marijuana, according to the affiliate's news story, "police noted she hesitated and her eyes darted to the left" before saying no.

    I'm kind of in agreement with the officers on this one. Have you noticed Fauci did the exact same thing in those videos where he claimed the vaccine was Highly Effective?

    1. She simply sucks at lying. She wasn't transporting MJ at the time of the questioning. But she had been earlier that day. She was trying to calculate how much they knew.

      Asset forfeiture laws are wrong and unconstitutional. But this example is the exact reason proponents support them.

      1. Yeah. Gross violation of the Constitution, but for fuck sake, who in their right mind would put $106,000 in a briefcase and then check it in for the airlines to possibly lose it or steal it?
        Imagine trying to collect the travelers insurance on that, or convincing the airlines that you had $106,000 in the suitcase they lost?
        Also, it's been my experience, you don't get cash for a house sale, you generally get a check. Which is a fuck ton easier to carry and keep track of than $106,000 in cash, especially while you are flying. You also don't have the check the check into checked baggage. (I just couldn't help myself from writing that sentence).

      2. That is assuming the cops were telling the truth. Now go to court and prove you did not look to the left and hesitate.

  8. Pro tip, if you need to carry $106,000 domestically, don't fly it. Just pull a few bucks out and drive it.

    1. Yeah, but that doesn't scale if you are flying suitcases of marijuana around the country.

      1. Neither does losing $106,000 in cash when you send your bag through a security checkpoint and x-ray machine and get it subjected to drug-sniffing dogs.

      2. At $106k a trip I can afford to only take one trip a week.

    2. There are plenty of stories of motorists getting stung, too. That the whole concept of civil asset forfeiture hasn't already been squashed by the courts, or ended by Congress the first time it ever made a news cycle is reason #327 why my hope for this country is so faded. Governments should fight racketeering, not participate in it under color of law. Yeah, I know, I'm an idealist I guess

      1. Add to that, the concept that you can be brought under suspicion by a "witness" - drug-sniffing dog - that you can't question as to what it actually smelled, or if it reacted to a subtle signal from its handler.
        Though it would probably lie about that latter circumstance.
        So many Constitutional violations permitted, under the need to prevent victimless crimes.

        1. That's a practice that should be abolished. Studies have shown that dogs are no better than a coin flip at determining if drugs are present. It appears they are only reacting to cues (either direct or subconscious) from their handlers.

    3. The I-10 Gulf Coast Corridor is one long conga line of cops stopping travelers and stealing cash.

    4. oh sure there are no cops on the highways

  9. Something tells me the woman transported a suitcase full of marijuana and then flew back with $100,000 in that same suitcase.

    1. My thoughts.
      Could they prove it? Probably not. Is the cops actions justified or Constitutional? Not by my reading of the Constitution, which forgive me for being old fashioned, actual means what it says.
      Is this lady shifty as hell, and the story stink to high levels? Fuck yes.
      Is Reason being a bit disingenuous in reporting the story? Are we surprised anymore? I mean it's pretty much SOP to get cash for a house sale, be off by $80,000 how much cash you got, and then carry it around in a briefcase.
      Without seeing the briefcase, how can we determine if calling it gray when it's black is a minor or a major mistake?
      They didn't even need to get into all that. Just say no drugs were found and no charges were pending, And despite the fact that her story is questionable, this is a blatant violation of the Constitution. No, need to try and make her an innocent victim, or imply her behavior was innocent.
      The fact is, our Constitution applies to criminals as well as innocent individuals. We should be appalled no matter how virtuous or otherwise a person is, if their rights are violated.
      Trying to sanctify someone whose behavior is suspect as hell, is just as disingenuous as when someone brings up someone's past criminal behavior to justify police brutality.

      1. This is a good point. Constitutional protections apply to everyone, even the obviously guilty... Pretending that it only counts if you are innocent kinda hurts the cause.

  10. I'll bet the MJ smell was from the cop's uniforms.

    1. If they'd been at the Chicago airport instead of Dallas, I'd have guessed the weed smell was coming from the "amnesty bins" they have at security...

  11. Maybe she was going to use i to help the truckers. In that case confiscate!

  12. Under the umbrella of “civil forfeiture,” officers of the law confiscate millions of dollars in cash from thousands of individuals like Charles Clarke every year. In doing so, they need no proof that the money is obtained through illegal means. They do not need to file a criminal charge. The law flips the American justice system upside down: the burden of proving innocence is on the “suspect” -- and if he or she can’t do that, the property is fair game for officers to take.

  13. 1. If your report of the police report is accurate - she's a courier.

    2. It shouldn't matter as CAF should not be legal.

    3. And even if it is legal, drugs should not be illegal either.

    1. And even if it is not drug money, moving money from place to place should not be illegal (by itself).

      I am extremely suspicious of the move to be able to track every penny spent by every person, every call made, every internet site loaded, every location visited....

      Government with a panopticon is way, way, way too big and powerful.

  14. A police spokesman insisted that the detectives acted in good faith—as his eyes flicked briefly to the left.

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  16. has anyone interviewed the woman? fairly or not, every day we don't hear any other explanation makes "drugs" seem more likely

    of course they shouldn't be able to seize the money on the available evidence anyway, but not sure this is the hill to die on

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