“He couldn’t prove it was legitimate”

by Walter Olson on May 16, 2012

Nice $22,000 you’re carrying, Mister Motorist, but I think it would look nicer in the police department’s bank account [News Channel 5 Nashville via Radley Balko]. Driver George Reby, a professional insurance adjuster from New Jersey, was then permitted to go on his way since he “hadn’t committed a criminal law [violation],” as the police officer later explained to a reporter. It happened in Monterey, Tenn., not Monterrey, Mexico.

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Civil Asset Forfeiture and the “Piratical” State | Cato @ Liberty
05.21.12 at 2:34 pm

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1 Calvin A 05.16.12 at 8:49 am

And this is why the answer to the question “Mind if I take a look in your car?” should always be “I do not consent to a search”, which could be followed by “Am I free to leave?”.

2 Ron Miller 05.16.12 at 9:15 am

I disagree with that, tho. If the police want to look in my car, they can. Just let the police do their job and get it over with.

I agree the law is ridiculous. That said, if you took a survey of people with $22,000 in their car, you would find that 90% are doing something illegal.

3 L. C. Burgundy 05.16.12 at 9:28 am

I have to agree with Calvin on this one. That is always the correct response to a police officer request, especially in a guilty until proven innocent scenario. As bad as a judge and jury may be, I’d always put my trust in them before the, ahem, professional judgment of a police officer.

Ron, I certainly hope you can prove to the police you didn’t use your car to traffic drugs last week if they have a mind to take it from you. Because, after all, like Mr. Reby, you should have no problem proving a negative.

4 Scott 05.16.12 at 11:38 am

@Ron Miller the police make it their job to roll back most civil rights and cow the community into compliance because otherwise they can ruin your day because you had audacity to not give up your rights during a traffic stop.

Remember everyone … keep those cameras rolling.

5 Xmas 05.16.12 at 12:01 pm

Better one innocent person be charged than a guilty person go free, right Ron?

6 Ron Miller 05.16.12 at 12:08 pm

I understand and respect what you guys are saying. I just see it differently. The police have to do their jobs. They are largely trying to protect us and make our community safer. I want to help them any reasonable way that I can. If that means they want to see what is in my car, they can have at it.

7 Jim 05.16.12 at 12:30 pm

It seems the highway robbers in this day and time bring their own badges.

8 John Burgess 05.16.12 at 12:50 pm

@Ron Miller: I used to think that way. Two of my favorite uncles were cops, a statey and a city cop.

But then I started coming across cops that were corrupt, stupid, and power mad. Cops willing to fudge their testimony or out-and-out lie about what happened. Even if they’re only 5% of the force, that’s far too high a percentage to gamble my freedom and my money.

A cop gets nothing besides my drivers license, registrations, and proof of insurance without a warrant.

9 EROK 05.16.12 at 1:12 pm

So riddle me this, @Ron. If 90% of the people with that kind of cash are up to something illegal, does that not include residents of Tennessee? Because according to the article, the police only target out of state plates for this type of confiscation. And that’s solely done because most people find it too taxing (pun intended) to return to a different state/county to fight.

10 J. W. 05.16.12 at 1:23 pm

Ron, presumably you know better than a random police officer what is in your car. Is there anything in it that is illegal and makes your community less safe? If the answer is no, then it seems that a police officer is not protecting anyone by looking in your car. Actually, his time would probably be spent more productively doing anything other than looking in your car. So why are you letting him look in your car?

11 Ron Miller 05.16.12 at 2:18 pm

The law is dumb, we all agree. But let’s not pretend the police are motivated to make a profit here. And I doubt the money goes to the police. These guys are not the soldiers in the war to increase the public coffers.

Riddle me this? Hey, that’s real cute. But I’m not sure your question is on point. My estimate of the percentage has nothing to do with the details of the law, right? Riddle me this: why are you mixing the two? (But if you want an answer, I’ll give you one anyway. I’m sure the likelihood of someone with $22,000 in their car with out-of-state tags is more likely to up to no good than someone in state. But I’m not defending this dumb law, remember?)

J.W. I cooperate because it helps them put whatever concerns they have to bed and move on. In my world, life is too short to sweat the small stuff like that. If you want to look in my car and you tell me it is real important to you, then you can have a peek too, J.W. It is all good.

We are all victims of our experiences. Mine with police have been very good. (Any bad encounters – which I refuse to admit or deny – would have theoretically been my own fault.) If I had different experiences, I might have a different outlook on this.

12 Bill Alexander 05.16.12 at 2:35 pm

“But let’s not pretend the police are motivated to make a profit here.”

I contend they are. The money does not go to the individual officer, but they gain in reputation and probably advancement, and in many or most jurisdictions the money goes to the government and to the police department.

13 J. W. 05.16.12 at 2:42 pm

Ron, I think you missed my point. If there is nothing illegal in your car that makes your community less safe, then the police officer would actually not be doing his job (“protect[ing] us and mak[ing] our community safer”) by looking through your car. If you actually want him to do his job (as you have defined it), then it makes more sense for you to deny him access so that he can be productive elsewhere. Chances are his “concerns” will not persist beyond your refusal–unless he’s paranoid–because the check would have been routine and without probable cause.

14 gitarcarver 05.16.12 at 2:59 pm

The proceeds do not go to salaries, but they do go to the police agencies as per Tennessee law.

40-33-211. Property disposition.

(a) The proceeds from all seizures, confiscations and sales made by a state agency pursuant to the provisions of § 39-14-307, § 47-25-1105, § 53-11-451, § 55-10-403(k), § 57-3-411, § 57-5-409, § 57-9-201, § 67-4-1020 or § 70-6-202, shall be transmitted to the state treasurer and deposited in the state treasury. All the seizures, confiscations and sales made by county or municipal law enforcement personnel shall be paid to the county trustee or city recorder, respectively, and shall be used exclusively for the benefit of the seizing county or municipality for law enforcement or drug education purposes. All such seizures, confiscations and sales derived from the activities of a judicial district drug task force shall be paid to an expendable trust fund maintained by the county mayor in a county designated by the district attorney general, and shall be used exclusively in a drug enforcement or drug education program of the district as directed by the board of directors of the judicial district drug task force. If any other provision of law requires that the proceeds from seizures, confiscations and sales made under one (1) of the sections set out in this subsection (a) be deposited in a special fund, the provisions of that other provision shall control.

It is a “for profit” enterprise.

15 John Burgess 05.16.12 at 3:24 pm

Ron: How about if I — absolutely not involved in drugs, arms, trafficking of any kind — decide to cruise the roads of TN with $25K in my trunk.

I can show where I got the money — from the government, even! It is not against any law I’m aware of to drive around the US with a wad of cash. (Taking it in or out of the country is a different matter, of course.)

Will you pay my legal bills to recover my cash if a cop tries to confiscate it?

16 Ted 05.16.12 at 4:42 pm

“I agree the law is ridiculous. That said, if you took a survey of people with $22,000 in their car, you would find that 90% are doing something illegal.”

Why bother with a survey if you already know the results?

“The law is dumb, we all agree. But let’s not pretend the police are motivated to make a profit here. And I doubt the money goes to the police. These guys are not the soldiers in the war to increase the public coffers.”

Followed by:

“The proceeds from all seizures, confiscations and sales made by a state agency * * * shall be transmitted to the state treasurer and deposited in the state treasury. All the seizures, confiscations and sales made by county or municipal law enforcement personnel shall be paid to the county trustee or city recorder, respectively, and shall be used exclusively for the benefit of the seizing county or municipality for law enforcement or drug education purposes.”

PWNED!

17 mojo 05.16.12 at 4:46 pm

Presumption of guilt – by the object itself. Bad money! BAD!

18 DensityDuck 05.16.12 at 7:48 pm

“If the police want to look in my car, they can. Just let the police do their job and get it over with.”

And I’m sure you take the same attitude towards cavity searches.

19 Richard Nieporent 05.16.12 at 9:01 pm

i>I want to help them any reasonable way that I can. If that means they want to see what is in my car, they can have at it.

Ron, I guess you must have slept through your constitutional law class, so let me help you out here.

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The police have absolutely no right to search a person’s vehicle if the person has not committed a crime. Would you also acquiesce to the police searching your home because you have nothing to hide? It is hard to believe that a defense attorney would have so little regard for the rights of an individual.

20 Ron Miller 05.17.12 at 10:45 am

Too many people to respond to here. But I’ll hit the high points.

Richard, you struggle with apples and oranges. I have the right to waive my 4th Amendment rights. Did I ever say, “Oh, golly, the policy asked, I have to let them search”? My house is a little more inconvenient and intrusive to be sure. But I would not rule out letting them search my house. I just don’t care.

Mojo, no one said the money was bad. I said I think a study – assuming one could be done and it can’t – would show that overwhelming majority of people with that much money in their car are up to no good. Even if I’m right about that, we can all agree that would still leave lots of people with legitimate reasons for having that money. This whole issue is a red herring.

There seems to be a lot of anger that I would willing cooperate with police when I don’t have to. Do you understand this does alter your constitutional rights? Did I ever suggest anyone else should make a different call? I would think I would get support for making what choice I want to make. Do you really want to try to belittle me for the choice I would make?

Density Duck, I draw the line on cavity. You can book that.

I don’t thing cops are getting hugs and promotions at the station for doing this. I could be wrong. It was unlikely the case here. Did you read the interview with the cop who did this?

21 gitarcarver 05.17.12 at 1:42 pm

Ron,

I don’t thing cops are getting hugs and promotions at the station for doing this. I could be wrong. It was unlikely the case here. Did you read the interview with the cop who did this?

I’m sorry, but you are either being disingenuous or overly naive with the above statement. You first claimed the stops couldn’t be for profit and have ignored the statute that contradicts that.

Secondly, yes, I have read the interview with the officer. His answers were less than candid and it was clear he did not state the entire truth on his report and seizure application.

Lastly, I know that as a lawyer you do pro bono work and perhaps volunteer in your community that is “not for profit.” However, it is totally beyond the pale that if you brought in a case that netted $22,000 in profit to your firm, no one would give you an “atta boy.” Why you would think the same thing would not hold true in the police department is beyond me.

22 mojo 05.17.12 at 2:39 pm

Ron -

The point was not “money is bad”, it’s that it’s a stupid legal fiction that an inanimate object can be “presumed guilty” of anything. The forfeiture is premised on the money being the “criminal”, regardless of any proof, or indeed any indication whatsoever that the owner was “up to no good”, in your charming phrase. The state’s action is against the money.

And, for me, that’s insane. Not to mention thuggish and downright unconstitutional.

23 DensityDuck 05.17.12 at 3:10 pm

“I draw the line on cavity.”

This shows that you’re clearly a criminal with something to hide, who wants to impede the police in their lawful acts to lawfully uphold the law. After all, if you were a law-abiding citizen with nothing to hide then you surely wouldn’t mind consenting to a search!

24 Ron Miller 05.17.12 at 4:44 pm

I don’t get an atta boy for that. But I get your point. Still, I think a nonprofit atta boy that is so attenuated from the police and so plainly on its face wrong is different. I think the police are not looking to make money; I think they are trying to protect us. Clearly, this is not always so but it is largely true.

I don’t think the officer was in it for profit for him or the municipality. I think he was not very smart (at least in this instance).

Mojo, on your point, I’ve said in almost every post how dumb this law is. Do you want me to defend it? I can try if you really want to argue with someone other than a straw man. But it is going to be a toughie.

Back to what I think is the real issue, is anyone really going to defend condemnation of someone who chooses to allow the police to search you? I find great irony in the defense of freedom while mocking someone for making their own choice to waive their rights.

25 mojo 05.17.12 at 6:06 pm

I’m not trying to defend it, Ron, I agree that it’s moronic, which means it probably originated with a needy legislator somewhere.

He has the option of waiving his 4th protections, agreed. What I don’t agree with is the officer’s (command-directed) decision to confiscate private property on the mere chance that it might be proceeds of a criminal act. I kinda like some sort of indication that that ‘s the case before I go grabbing. Show me a joint in an ashtray. Something.

26 gitarcarver 05.17.12 at 6:23 pm

Ron,

I am not sure you get the point. You make $22,000 in profit for your firm and someone is going to give you an “atta boy.” (Unless, of course, you want to try and convince us that your firm is not in the business of making a profit.) Here the police have a financial incentive to confiscate money and items in the hope that the out of state individual won’t come back or hire an attorney. It is simply unbelievable to think that the police – who give official awards for everything – are not going to say “atta boy” when some cop brings in $22,000 in cash.

As for your second point that the police are there to protect up or “want to protect us,” in some cases that is true. However, in this case, I didn’t see the police protecting anyone. Did the cash in the bag cause paper cuts to the officer? That doesn’t even pass the smell test. Secondly, the cop left off information on the seizure application to the judge that clearly would have had the judge saying “give the guy his money back.”

Lastly, the idea of “Officer Friendly” being given the benefit of the doubt has left the building. You, of all people, should know with the level of corruption in the Baltimore City Police Department is evidence the police of the BPD were not looking out for anyone but themselves.

27 MF 05.17.12 at 6:37 pm

I think the main point I would want to make is that, although you (Ron) are certainly free to waive your rights, it frustrates me greatly that people are willing to do this. The more that people waive rights, the more that it will become the norm for people to be expected to waive those rights, and that when someone won’t waive their rights, they must have something to hide. That is the mindset that prevails more and more frequently. That’s why I find it so objectionable that you choose to waive your rights.

28 Ron Miller 05.18.12 at 2:44 pm

Gitacarver, do you think we should have more big government? No? Why not? Because it is inefficient. This is, in large measure, due to the lack of motivation nonprofits have to maximize profits. You conceded this when you said “unless you work for a nonprofit.” A police force and a municipality is a nonprofit. I don’t think most cops in that situation are getting atta boys from above. “Good job, you brought in some money, I don’t care if you got it immorally.” If that ever happens, it is the exception rather than the rule. You think the police are just looking our for themselves. Why? Are police as a class bad people? Or do you think it is just all people? I have a different world view.

MF, I get your point. I just disagree. I wish people would do more to cooperate with police and be less obstructionist with them for no good reason. Does that cooperation sometimes get punished? Sure. I think for people who are doing what they should be doing, it is rare and making the jobs easier of those trying to protect us it is an effective trade off. But I definitely don’t begrudge you for taking whatever course you want under the law.

29 gitarcarver 05.18.12 at 6:19 pm

Ron,

In some ways, you crossed a line here.

You conceded this when you said “unless you work for a nonprofit.”

One problem. I never said that which is in quotes. I am at a loss as to why you would attribute something to me which I did not say.

Secondly, while a non-profit or government does not have an focus on maximizing “profits,” they do focus on maximizing income.

If that ever happens, it is the exception rather than the rule.

You mean “ever happens” as in the very case we are talking about?

Why? Are police as a class bad people?

I believe police act like many people who are in positions of power and have a lack of accountability.

I noticed that you failed to address the corruption of the Baltimore City Police Department. Where the officers that are now residing in jail just “misguided angled who fell from grace?” Or how about the fact that the BP has been under reporting crimes to make it seem they are doing a better job than they are?

To have different views of the world, you first need to take off the blinders.

30 David Schwartz 05.18.12 at 11:15 pm

Ron: I don’t understand how you can think it sensible to respond to a story about a man who has done nothing wrong yet lost $22,000 because he let police search his car by saying it’s a good idea to let police search your car if you’ve done nothing wrong.

31 Ron Miller 05.20.12 at 12:29 pm

Gitacarver, I misread what you said. And I don’t think you follow my logic about the motivations of for profit and not for profit. Can you tell me what you do for a living ? You told us all once but I forgot. (Also, I don’t work for the Baltimore City police and I’m not the spokesperson for them. I do think most BC cops are working hard and doing a great job. I appreciate them.)

David, I try not to let a report of one bad outcome change my world view. It is a country of 311 million people. Lots of crazy things are going to happen. Columbine happened but I still send me kids to school. My point is that even though bad things can happen by being cooperative, it is generally the best play.

32 gitarcarver 05.20.12 at 9:26 pm

Ron,

With all due respect, I am not following your “logic” because I find there is no logic to be found. I find it against all logic and experience that you believe the police do not have a financial motivation to seize money and property that comes back to them in the form of new toys.

Frankly, I don’t care whether you work for the Baltimore police or not. That is not the issue. The issue is that the BPD is full of corruption which has been proven in court, and now is facing more questions on how it handled the St Patrick’s Day incident at the Inner Harbor. If you think that was “a good job,” we have nothing further to talk about as I don’t think the police not protecting people or property, and then lying about the incident is a “good job.”

33 David Schwartz 05.20.12 at 11:41 pm

Ron: I cannot imagine what possible benefit there could be to letting the police search your car if you have done nothing wrong. How many bad outcomes would it take to change your world view? Because there is report after report of people who cooperated with the police to their detriment. And, in any event, if the advice only applies if you know you’ve done nothing wrong, then I submit that it *never* applies.

34 Ron Miller 05.21.12 at 10:21 am

I think you did a good job of reading between the lines again Gitcarver. Everything I’ve been saying has been with the motive of defending the Baltimore police on St. Patrick’s Day at the Inner Harbor. That is what this whole thing has been about. Checkmate. Well played, my friend.

I’m not reading this “reports after reports.” If they exist on level that does not make sense for a nation of this size and I saw them what would I do? Probably the exact same thing. If the police are trying to get you, they are going to get you. If a police officer is up to know good, I stayed half awake enough in Criminal Law to know that a police officer can easily make up probable cause. I think you are better off playing ball.

By the way, David, I’m mocking Gitacarver a little bit because he’s going off on wild tangents. I have no arrogance, however, about the position I’m taking with you. I might be wrong. I really don’t know. But my philosophy – which has changed since my youth – is when in doubt to cooperate, show good faith, and hope the chips fall in the right place.

35 gitarcarver 05.21.12 at 11:00 am

Ron,

Wow. Sarcasm.

Let’s review, shall we? You claim the police in TN had no financial incentive to seize the money. When the law is shown to you, you ignore it and rest on the idea that the police would never do anything corrupt.

When the “no corruption” idea is challenged with the massive corruption in your area, you claim that it doesn’t matter to you and that you aren’t a spokesman for the police. Of course, that is simply disingenuous because no one was asking you to be a spokesman for the police, but rather the actions of the BCPD are contrary to your opinion.

Now you want to come in and change the subject again. Fine by me. You say (and I will quote directly from you) “If the police are trying to get you, they are going to get you.

Most people will see that as an acknowledgement of the very police corruption you maintain doesn’t exist. Somehow I suspect you won’t.

The problem is not “wild tangents,” Ron. The problem is that you have refused to respond to anything that is factually against your perceived notions.

Only you can take off your blinders.

And with that, I am done in this thread.

36 MF 05.21.12 at 12:21 pm

The bottom line is that if I am detained by the police, I will fully and (hopefully) cheerfully cooperate in any way I can – up to but not crossing the point of relinquishing any of my rights. “I’m sorry, officer, but that would be giving up my rights, and I cannot do that in good conscience.” That is the only sensible position to take.

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