Monday, August 21, 2006

Drive with cash, you're presumed guilty

The U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, ruled last week that if you are driving around with large amounts of cash, the government may presume that you are guilty of drug trafficking and seize that cash.

The case in question was United States of America v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency (forfeiture cases name the seized items as the defendant). Emiliano Gomez Gonzolez was pulled over for speeding in Nebraska in 2003 while driving a rented Ford Taurus. In the car was a cooler with $124,700 in cash, which was seized on suspicion of a drug crime. A drug-sniffing dog barked at the car and the cooler, which was taken as evidence.

Friends of Gonzolez testified that they had pooled their life savings to purchase a refrigerated truck in order to start a produce business. Gonzalez was sent on a one-way ticket to Chicago to buy the truck, but it had already sold. He had no credit card, so had a third party rent a car for him. He says he hid the money in a cooler to prevent it from being stolen.

The District Court had found for Gonzolez, saying that there was no evidence of drug activity. The Appeals court disagreed, with a strong dissent by Judge Donald Lay.

Forfeiture laws have long been heavily abused in the name of the war on drugs. In 1991, the Pittsburgh Press ran a six-part series on forfeiture abuse called Presumed Guilty: The Law's Victims in the War on Drugs which can be found in various places online.

UPDATE: Ed Brayton has also commented on this story at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

2 comments:

Jim Lippard said...

This may not be as bad as it appears, for the reasons Ted Frank points out in a comment at Overlawyered.

James said...

When one playes god and money is they only evendence the court has then they have nothin. I for one can not respect any court that breacks there own rulse, how is by catching them driveing while talking on cell phone or shaveing or even puting lipstick on while driveing. They to breack laws and not cought. so you might have the weaght but there are reasonable people and honest people who will always have the power to continue to carrie any amount they chose. For there are some thing that are understandable but when you diside sombudys fat becouse of some measeley money for a truck or some leginoment reason and without proof. then what right do you have by playing god, you had no proof that he and he alone was buying, selling or give any druge for any reason you had no proof period. it is therefor that you have volidated humens rights you (the high court)had brocke the law to you are no diffrent then any buddy eles. guilty by playing god!!!!