Highway Robbery, Cajun Style (Will Grigg)
Thursday December 13th, 2012
In Louisiana, the practice of civil asset forfeiture includes a system in which the loot is divvied up among courts, prosecutors, and police. This enhances the perverse incentives for officers to devise rationales to stop and search automobiles. It also helps explain a recent state supreme court ruling that upheld the confiscation of $144,000 from a motorist because the driver wasn’t able to offer what the court considered a credible explanation for the funds.
After Tina Beers was stopped for a suspected traffic violation, the officer conducted a search of her minivan because she appeared nervous. He found a large amount of cash that had been bundled in rubber bands and shrink wrap. He claimed that the method of packing the cash suggested that it was drug proceeds, and confiscated it.
The state Court of Appeal ruled that there was no probable cause to seize the cash. That ruling was overturned by the state supreme court.
No crime was committed, no charges were filed, there was no probable cause for the seizure -- but because the money was wrapped in a certain way, and the female driver was nervous in the presence of an armed tax-feeder, the highway robbers in uniform get to keep the cash.