Sunday, August 20, 2006

Suspicion Always Haunts The Guilty Mind

A Federal appeals court has ruled that police may seize cash from motorists even in the complete absence of evidence that a crime has been committed, except the single bark of a dog:
On May 28, 2003, a Nebraska state trooper signaled Gonzolez to pull over his rented Ford Taurus on Interstate 80. The trooper intended to issue a speeding ticket, but noticed the Gonzolez's name was not on the rental contract. The trooper then proceeded to question Gonzolez -- who did not speak English well -- and search the car. The trooper found a cooler containing $124,700 in cash, which he confiscated. A trained drug sniffing dog barked at the rental car and the cash. For the police, this was all the evidence needed to establish a drug crime that allows the force to keep the seized money.

Associates of Gonzolez testified in court that they had pooled their life savings to purchase a refrigerated truck to start a produce business. Gonzolez flew on a one-way ticket to Chicago to buy a truck, but it had sold by the time he had arrived. Without a credit card of his own, he had a third-party rent one for him. Gonzolez hid the money in a cooler to keep it from being noticed and stolen. He was scared when the troopers began questioning him about it. There was no evidence disputing Gonzolez's story.

Yesterday the Eighth Circuit summarily dismissed Gonzolez's story. It overturned a lower court ruling that had found no evidence of drug activity, stating, "We respectfully disagree and reach a different conclusion... Possession of a large sum of cash is 'strong evidence' of a connection to drug activity."
I was going to say “I hope this goes to the Supreme Court” but these days I don’t even think that will help. One judge on the Eighth Circuit, at least, had a less frightening view of the scope of police power. Here’s the dissent of Judge Donald Lay:
"Notwithstanding the fact that claimants seemingly suspicious activities were reasoned away with plausible, and thus presumptively trustworthy, explanations which the government failed to contradict or rebut, I note that no drugs, drug paraphernalia, or drug records were recovered in connection with the seized money," Judge Lay wrote. "There is no evidence claimants were ever convicted of any drug-related crime, nor is there any indication the manner in which the currency was bundled was indicative of drug use or distribution."
Found via Fark.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The dirty thing about such episodes as the one that is related here is the fact that were he to be charged with a crime, yet found inocent, he would play hell trying to get his money back. Even if he was not charged, he would have a difficult time getting his money or any other goods returned. At the very least he would have to get a lawyer.
The cops in this country have turned into a bunch of corrupt thieves similar to what they have in Mexico. But of course, THEY don't think that they are corrupt - hell! they think they are entirely legitimate, upstanding members of the community. They even seem to think they are justified. They are fighting the "evil drug pushers" or the "evils of prostitution" or whatever.
Government and its employees at all levels in this country has grown to such an extent and become so self-serving as to think they are the only ones that matter. The country, the states, the counties and cities - exist solely for THEIR welfare. The citizens, or "civilians", are just a group to be "harvested".

5:17 AM  
Anonymous thoreau said...

What if the guy's name was, oh, "Gates" instead of "Gonzolez"? Any bets on whether they'd confiscate the cash?

5:45 AM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Amazing. I keep thinking, "There's got to be some set of facts that are absent in the published version...there's just gotta be" Then I proceed to think "Time to start burying the AR's in the back yard, convert to gold, and get ready"

5:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"thoreau said...
What if the guy's name was, oh, "Gates" instead of "Gonzolez"? Any bets on whether they'd confiscate the cash?"

If you mean any "Gates" other than THE Bill Gates, yeah, I'd take that bet. The cops don't care what color you are as long as it's not BLUE - they'll steal from anyone.

6:11 AM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

We need a special currency ``not valid for the purchase of illegal drugs.'' Normal people could carry it around and be safe from police siezure, since it wouldn't work in the drug business.

8:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Then I proceed to think "Time to start burying the AR's in the back yard,"

If it's time to bury them, that just means it's time to dig them up.

1:35 PM  

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