Last month law enforcement across the country was busy seizing cash in various arrests and stings. Cash seizures have become particularly controversial in recent times, as their legality has been questioned by many state courts.
Three of the most noteworthy cash seizure stories for February 2019 are below
South Carolina Police Defend Keeping Seized Cash
Even the strongest advocates for the civil asset forfeiture program in South Carolina have admitted recently that the police have a strong incentive to seize citizens’ property for the benefit of their police department. (greenvilleonline.com).
According to Jarrod Bruder, executive director of the states sheriffs association, without an incentive for law enforcement to provide from cash seizure and civil forfeiture, police probably would decline to go after drug dealers and their cash as aggressively as they do today.
Bruder noted if the police are not able to keep the money they get during cash seizures, what is the reason for them to make a strong effort?
Bruder’s comments were reported after he was given research from an investigation by the media that found police departments had seized more than $17 million using various state laws allowing police to seize property and money without requiring an arrest or criminal conviction. The majority of the money and property that the police seize ends up going into the bank accounts of the police department.
That investigation found that in ⅕ of the cash seizure and asset forfeiture cases in the state, there is not even anyone convicted of a crime. In 20% of cases, there is no arrest. Law enforcement is involved in the seizure of property from African Americans 70% of the time, and most of the cases involve young black males.
Advocates for cash seizure reform argue that no one is interested in removing the ability of law enforcement to go after drug dealers and profits. However, cash seizure needs to be tied to a criminal case. There should be proof that the property or cash was a profit from a criminal operation. It should not just be cash that a citizen was carrying in their car when stopped or arrested.
Advocates further argue that profits from asset forfeiture and cash seizure should be sent to the general fund of South Carolina, or a fund that is not related to any police department. This would remove the incentive to grab money that is simply funnelled back into the budget of the department.
Law Enforcement Thinks Cash Seizure Is Justified
The media contacted every law enforcement group that had filed a civil asset forfeiture in South Carolina last year and asked how they handle cash seizures. Some of the law enforcement agencies who responded argued the system is fair because due process is involved. Some said that citizens can fight to get their property back in court. Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller said it is a fair practice because people can have a hearing before a judge.
But those opposed argue that due process is not in a criminal case with proof required. Rather, the property owner has the burden to prove his money was not from illegal activities. Any money required to hire cash seizure attorney must be paid by the citizen.
Many of the cash seizure cases only involve a few hundred or few thousand dollars, it usually is not worth the legal cost to argue the case. Many people just give up their money, even if they think it was taken illegally.
Officials for law enforcement in South Carolina say that reducing forfeiture profits would reduce their ability to fight crime. According to Clemson Police Chief Jimmy Dixon, if police were not able to collect the money, it would reduce the ability of the department to do long term drug surveillance. He said it could even shut down their K-9 unit and damage their ability to do undercover narcotics operations.
Traffic Stop in Indiana Nets $144,200 Cash Seizure in Drug Money
A traffic stop in Laporte, Indiana netted more than $144,000 in drug money, which local police said is the biggest cash seizure in the history of the county. (nwitimes.com).
The cash was found with the help of K-9 unit in several bundles in a vehicle that was stopped at 3 PM on Feb. 19 on US 20, west of County Road East in Laporte County, Indiana. The driver of the vehicle was identified as Alberto Rosales, who is wanted in Elkhart County.
The local police suspected the money was related to the trafficking of narcotics, so they contacted the DEA for help, and work is ongoing in the asset forfeiture process.
The driver was taken into police custody on a felony charge of dealing in methamphetamine and a misdemeanor count of possessing controlled substances, as well as operating a motor vehicle without a license.
Indianapolis Police Seize $1 Million in Cash, Drugs and Property
Indianapolis metro police say a home visit to a community corrections home netted the seizure of $1 million cash, drugs and property this week. Local law enforcement visited the Marion County Community correction on a home visit on North Olney Street in Indianapolis. According to police, Lamont Dycus, 34, tried to flee from police officers but was quickly caught. (wthr.com).
During the execution of the police warrant, they seized the following:
- 20 pounds of methamphetamine with a street value of $750,000.
- ¾ a kilo of cocaine with a street value of $60,000.
- ¼ kilo of heroin with a street value of $25,000
- $16,000 in cash
- 1 car
- Glock .45 caliber handgun
- IMPD Seizes Nearly $1 Million in Drugs, Cash and Property. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.wthr.com/article/impd-seizes-nearly-1-million-drugs-cash-and-property
- Traffic Stop Nets Near Record Breaking Seizure of Drug Money. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/traffic-stop-nets-near-record-breaking-seizure-of-in-suspected/article_e3403b0b-e465-545e-9989-5f666f234208.html#19
- South Carolina Civil Forfeiture – Police Defend Practice. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/news/taken/2019/02/03/sc-civil-forfeiture-police-defend-practice-say-funds-essential-law-enforcement/2746412002/