Law enforcement officials don’t believe this, but people really do find it convenient sometimes to travel with large amounts of money. Law enforcement officials do find it convenient that ninety percent of all U.S. currency, when tested, shows trace amounts of illegal narcotics.
So, when Nebraska police pulled over a husband/wife couple on a speeding violation and managed to convince them to voluntarily allow them to search the vehicle, they must have believed they hit pay dirt. As the Heritage Foundation recently reported, they found over a million dollars in $10,000 stacks of $100 bills stored in plastic bags.
The drug dogs sniffed drug residue so there was nothing else to decide, the money now belonged to the cops under “civil forfeiture” barbarism.
The driver and spouse were business associates of the 33-year-old Tara Mishra who was waiting for them in Rancho Cucamonga, California. They “were driving to New Jersey from California to help her pursue her lifelong dream of purchasing a nightclub.”
Mishra had saved this money over many years and had the documentation—including tax returns—to prove it, but the authorities still did not return the money. So she promptly filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Nebraska. Not only did she win her case, but she has now been awarded attorney fees and court costs because of the intransigent and unreasonable actions taken by the authorities—a clear signal to Nebraska cops to clean up their act.
The winning of her attorney expenses is the most recent event that has put this story back in the news. We might ask ourselves how many people can afford the time and expense to take a police department to court. This isn’t the first time a judge has sided with civilization against greedy government grabbers. But I haven’t heard any stories about how cops have been deterred from continuing the practice. My fear is that missing out on one taking plus paying the victim’s attorney fees isn’t enough to change the “law enforcement” business model.
As we have written previously, civil forfeiture abuse is a widespread problem. Officers all over the country have, on occasion, abused these incredibly broad laws to seize property from people who are entirely innocent of any wrongdoing. The legal battle to reclaim wrongfully seized property can be excruciatingly long and arduous.
Frankly, it is not clear to me that all money connected to a crime is, in all cases, a just punishment for the commission of a crime. Do people guilty of breaking a drug law deserve to have all assets that can be connected with them at the time of their arrest, taken from them? That’s an oddly flexible form of punishment—especially since it can be inflicted without any trial or conviction.
We need a law enforcement system that doesn’t have plunder and profit attached to it.