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United States of America v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency

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United States of America v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency

Postby RugbyD » Mon Aug 21, 2006 12:55 pm

First, I had no idea that money could be given defendant status. Interesting.

Second, I had no idea that cops can legally take your money for no reason. Hell, this case doesn't even come close to a 'preponderance of the evidence' measure. Very upsetting.

http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/12/1296.asp

Federal Appeals Court: Driving With Money is a Crime

Eighth Circuit Appeals Court ruling says police may seize cash from motorists even in the absence of any evidence that a crime has been committed.

A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that if a motorist is carrying large sums of money, it is automatically subject to confiscation. In the case entitled, "United States of America v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency," the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit took that amount of cash away from Emiliano Gomez Gonzolez, a man with a "lack of significant criminal history" neither accused nor convicted of any crime.

On May 28, 2003, a Nebraska state trooper signaled Gonzolez to pull over his rented Ford Taurus on Interstate 80. The trooper intended to issue a speeding ticket, but noticed the Gonzolez's name was not on the rental contract. The trooper then proceeded to question Gonzolez -- who did not speak English well -- and search the car. The trooper found a cooler containing $124,700 in cash, which he confiscated. A trained drug sniffing dog barked at the rental car and the cash. For the police, this was all the evidence needed to establish a drug crime that allows the force to keep the seized money.

Associates of Gonzolez testified in court that they had pooled their life savings to purchase a refrigerated truck to start a produce business. Gonzolez flew on a one-way ticket to Chicago to buy a truck, but it had sold by the time he had arrived. Without a credit card of his own, he had a third-party rent one for him. Gonzolez hid the money in a cooler to keep it from being noticed and stolen. He was scared when the troopers began questioning him about it. There was no evidence disputing Gonzolez's story.

Yesterday the Eighth Circuit summarily dismissed Gonzolez's story. It overturned a lower court ruling that had found no evidence of drug activity, stating, "We respectfully disagree and reach a different conclusion... Possession of a large sum of cash is 'strong evidence' of a connection to drug activity."

Judge Donald Lay found the majority's reasoning faulty and issued a strong dissent.

"Notwithstanding the fact that claimants seemingly suspicious activities were reasoned away with plausible, and thus presumptively trustworthy, explanations which the government failed to contradict or rebut, I note that no drugs, drug paraphernalia, or drug records were recovered in connection with the seized money," Judge Lay wrote. "There is no evidence claimants were ever convicted of any drug-related crime, nor is there any indication the manner in which the currency was bundled was indicative of
drug use or distribution."

"Finally, the mere fact that the canine alerted officers to the presence of drug residue in a rental car, no doubt driven by dozens, perhaps scores, of patrons during the course of a given year, coupled with the fact that the alert came from the same location where the currency was discovered, does little to connect the money to a controlled substance offense," Judge Lay Concluded
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Postby teddy ballgame » Mon Aug 21, 2006 12:57 pm

Nebraska is just all messed up with the legal sytem, huh? ;-7 :-?
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Postby roninmedia » Mon Aug 21, 2006 1:17 pm

teddy ballgame wrote:Nebraska is just all messed up with the legal sytem, huh? ;-7 :-?


First, someone being arrested for the 226th time and he's 40th on that county's list. And now this?

At least in florida, the only thing we screw up with is carrying out the democratic process. ;-)
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Postby Omaha Red Sox » Mon Aug 21, 2006 1:19 pm

I wonder where on I-80 this happened? That's pretty screwy. Sounds like Mr. Gonzolez may be getting his $124,700 back, and more, when this is all said and done. Unless there's more to this story than we know... ;-7
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Postby RugbyD » Mon Aug 21, 2006 1:35 pm

Omaha Red Sox wrote:I wonder where on I-80 this happened? That's pretty screwy. Sounds like Mr. Gonzolez may be getting his $124,700 back, and more, when this is all said and done. Unless there's more to this story than we know... ;-7

as of now he's SOL. the last part fo the story was the dissenting opinion.
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Postby Art Vandelay » Mon Aug 21, 2006 1:43 pm

This ruling is absolutey appalling. It efectively gives the police the right to steal money from anyone carrying large sums of cash with no evidence whatsoever. Saying that carrying a lot of cash is enough to assume that you are involved in a drug crime would be like saying that someone who carries bullets is involved in a shooting. Ridiculous.
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Postby acsguitar » Mon Aug 21, 2006 1:46 pm

Wait so they are keeping this poor guys money?

Thats beyond belief
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Postby josebach » Mon Aug 21, 2006 3:29 pm

Police have had this right forever. Keep in mind, the money is only confiscated if the owner can't prove how he obtained it... especially, if drug sniffing dogs make an alert. Even then, the owner is given every opportunity to prove through payment stubs or other methods that it's rightfully his. For them to decide to not give this guy his money back, you can be rest assured we're not hearing the entire story. Besides, it sounds like the judge ultimately disagreed with the court's ruling and decided to give them the money back.
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Postby mikhayl » Mon Aug 21, 2006 3:52 pm

This is disgusting. I like how the majority opinion sounds like it was written by a slow-witted 5th grader.
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Postby RugbyD » Mon Aug 21, 2006 4:02 pm

josebach wrote:Police have had this right forever. Keep in mind, the money is only confiscated if the owner can't prove how he obtained it... especially, if drug sniffing dogs make an alert. Even then, the owner is given every opportunity to prove through payment stubs or other methods that it's rightfully his. For them to decide to not give this guy his money back, you can be rest assured we're not hearing the entire story.

Hello? Innocent until proven guilty? Bueller?

josebach wrote:Besides, it sounds like the judge ultimately disagreed with the court's ruling and decided to give them the money back.

No, that was the dissenting judge. The guy got nothing back.
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