I came upon this story by way of Reason. I’m no fan of the ACLU, mostly because they are very selective about which civil liberties they choose to defend, but I have to be cheering for them in this case, where a truck driver was forced to turn over $23,700 for no other reason than he had an amount of cash greater than $10,000. No drugs, no drug paraphernalia, no probable cause.
DEA agents told Prieto he would receive a notice of federal proceedings to permanently forfeit the money within 30 days and that to get it back, he’d have to prove it was his and did not come from illegal drug sales.
Wasn’t the whole issue of search and seizure addressed a while back? At least that’s what I remember from my learnin’ in public schools.
The lawsuit said Prieto does not like banks and customarily carries his savings as cash.
That’s great and all, but the fact is, he doesn’t have to explain it. According to the Houston Chronicle article, he was actually nice enough to tell the police that he had the money and give them permission to search his vehicle. He could just as easily refused to allow them to search without any probable cause. That’s what I would do.
“The government took Mr. Prieto’s money as surely as if he had been robbed on a street corner at night,” Simonson said. “In fact, being robbed might have been better. At least then the police would have treated him as the victim of a crime instead of as a perpetrator.”
The scary part is, I’ve transported over $10k in cash (obtained legally, btw) on at least two occasions. Good thing I didn’t have a break light out. I’ll definitely be watching my back if my dreams of winning a big poker tournament ever come to fruition. It would suck to have it confiscated before I was able to pay the outrageous taxes on my winnings.