The Burden of Proof with Civil Asset Forfeiture


Talk of civil asset forfeiture has been in the air, recently, and this story from 2016 is worth plucking from the flow.  A New Jersey man was stopped for speeding driving through Tennessee.  A traveling insurance adjuster, he had $22,000 in cash in his vehicle, which the police officer proceeded to confiscate on suspicion that he’d gotten the money through illegal means.  Here’s Officer Larry Bates:

Bates said the amount of money and the way it was packed gave him reason to be suspicious.

“The safest place to put your money if it’s legitimate is in a bank account,” he explained. “He stated he had two. I would put it in a bank account. It draws interest and it’s safer.”

“But it’s not illegal to carry cash,” we noted.

“No, it’s not illegal to carry cash,” Bates said. “Again, it’s what the cash is being used for to facilitate or what it is being utilized for.”

NewsChannel 5 Investigates noted, “But you had no proof that money was being used for drug trafficking, correct? No proof?”

“And he couldn’t prove it was legitimate,” Bates insisted.

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As previously noted in this space, when it comes to civil asset forfeiture, it’s the object that is technically under investigation, and cash has no presumed right to remain with its owner.  So, rather than the government’s having to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you’ve created a crime, you have to prove that your money was not acquired through criminal actions.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    When considering this matter, I think it well to remember the following. A significant portion, if not all, seized cash remains with the local police department. Usually it is in some sort of “general fund”. On a pro rata basis, cops are 8 times more likely than the general population to commit a felony.

    If things are slow, look back at the Boston Herald’s stories, of the last month or so, on the Massachusetts state police. Known felon hired as a K-9 officer at $150,000 a year, huge sums for bogus overtime, police reports altered to benefit political hacks, senior personnel “retiring” to avoid prosecution. All is not well.