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by Peter Moskos

June 30, 2015

Legal Robbery

Meanwhile, civil forfeiture continues. You know, where government agents just come and take your money. Why? Because they can.

Charles Clarke was questioned because the U.S. Airlines ticketing agent told police that his checked luggage had a strong odor of marijuana. When his money was confiscated, Clarke had no guns, drugs, or any contraband on him or in his luggage.

According to the affidavit, this is what gives probably cause to steal $11,000 from a citizen:
Travel on a recently purchased one-way ticket;
inability to provide documentation for source of currency;
strong oder of marijuana on checked luggage;
positive hit by drug dog.
Eleven law enforcement agencies want a cut of his money:
in Charles Clarke's case, agencies stand to receive payouts even though they had nothing to do with the seizure. "Law enforcement agencies are just scrambling to get a cut of the money and it has nothing to do with legitimate law enforcement incentives," said Clarke's attorney Darpana Sheth. "It's more about policing for profit." The small amounts that most agencies requested -- just a few hundred dollars -- represent what Sheth calls the "pettiness" of much of civil asset forfeiture. "It's really just the money, its not anything else that's driving the request," she said.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, passenger departures at CVG [the airport] have dropped by about 75 percent since 2005, from a high of roughly 11 million down to fewer than 3 million in 2013. Over the same time, the total amount of cash seized at the airport has increased more than sixteen-fold, from $147,000 to $3 million in 2012. So in stepping up their seizure efforts, authorities at the airport are squeezing more cash out of fewer passengers.
So Clarke has to hire a lawyer to prove the innocence of his money. The case is titled: "United States of America v. $11,000 in United States Currency and Charles L. Clarke, II." I doubt he's going to win.


Anonymous said...

You have a typo. You cite this from the affidavit:
"positive hit by drug drug."

The affidavit correctly states "drug dog."

Anonymous said...

Who the hell carries $11,000 in cash? Has he ever heard of a bank?

Moskos said...

Honestly, I think he probably *is* a weed dealer. I still don't think his money should be taken in this manner.

campbell said...

I think he probably *is* a weed dealer.

Right? Which I think is why it's so hard to get momentum on reform. The death penalty has the same problem. As someone embedded in the system, I have no problem with the idea that that system shouldn't be making decisions of life and death. But so often when I examine the details of the latest guy getting put down I come away thinging, "Eh, he had it coming." Damnit, we need some sympathetic examples to rally around.

Moskos said...

There are many examples of truly 100% innocent people who get their money taken. Sometimes you do need to carry a lot of cash. To buy something. Because you don't have a bank account. Because somebody else doesn't have a bank account. Because... who the hell cares? What kind of country makes carrying its own money illegal?!

But there are examples. Sometimes it's your home. Or Car. Or a boat. And still nothing changes.