There is always a catch.
You may have heard about Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent announcement that states would no longer be able to cite federal asset forfeiture laws to snatch people’s cash and property without so much as charging them with a crime – let alone actually going to the trouble of convicting them of having committed a crime.
Most people are unaware such brazen gangster tactics have been in use for years – and could be used against them. And when they are used, you’ll have little recourse. It is literally up to you to prove you did not commit a crime – at your expense and on your nickel.
Example: You have found a used car online that you are interested in buying. You make arrangements to go see the car, which is a couple hours’ drive away. Since you are pretty serious about wanting to buy the car if it checks out, you first go to the bank and withdraw $15,000 with which to purchase the car. You do so because you know that cash is a strong persuader and because the seller will not hand over the keys – or the title – unless he has cash in hand first.
This is common practice – and perfectly reasonable (as well as perfectly lawful, for the moment).
Well, along the way you get pulled over for some minor traffic offense. The cop notices you have a large envelope, demands to inspect its contents and you (foolishly) give him permission to do so. The cop can then simply take – and keep your money. Because merely having a “large amount” of cash – that is the term used – is considered “suspicious.” It is sufficient in and of itself to characterize you as a “drug dealer” or other such outlaw and for the cop (and county/state he’s acting as muscle for) to simply seize the cash. And not temporarily, either. It is now your obligation to prove the money is (well, was) rightfully – that is, lawfully – yours. This can be very expensive and very time consuming and many people – under extreme duress – actually sign off on the seizure in return for the cop/local prosecutor “letting them go.”
With empty pockets.
Example two: You are forced to stop at one of those vile (and probable cause-free) “sobriety” or “safety” checkpoints now routinized in the land of the formerly free. The cop claims he “smelled marijuana.” It is enough – all by itself – for him to simply take your vehicle, auction it off and put the proceeds toward more equipment (and more cops) to fight the “war” on some drugs (alcohol being a socially accepted – and thus, legal – drug).
You are shaken down for $30,000 (the value of your car) over a $300 bag of pot – actual or imagined (or just planted). It happens – and it’s entirely “lawful.” Just as it is “lawful” to stop/search people without probable cause – and to cavity search them once the pretext of an arrest for any offense (including infractions such as jaywalking or littering) is satisfied.