Thursday, July 06, 2006

Money seizure at traffic stop raises red flags

Warning: This post contains big chunks of pure speculation. Then, if you can't speculate on a blog, where can you speculate?

Sometimes you read short accounts in the paper of drug asset seizures that just don't pass the smell test - the reader has no evidence to dispute the cursory account, but something just sounds fishy. For example, a traffic stop in the Texas Panhandle last week resulted in seizure of more than $32,000 in cash, reported the Amarillo Globe News:
Troopers pulled over a Pontiac sedan for speeding about 5:30 p.m. Friday, reports show.

The driver consented to a search, and a drug dog found more than $32,800 arranged in bundles and stuffed in the trunk of the car. A drug dog alerting to cash suggests that drugs may have been in contact with the money at some time, according to DPS.

Several things strike me as odd about this story. First, why would someone allegedly ferrying drug money consent to a search? It's always hard under those circumstances to imagine the driver didn't feel coerced, even though consent is supposed to be voluntary. Another puzzler: the trooper already had permission to search. He didn't need probable cause, so why bring in a drug sniffing dog?

Finally, since when do dogs alert on money instead of drugs? I'm reminded of Justice John Paul Stevens' opinion in the Caballes case allowing trained dogs to sniff for drugs at traffic stops. One of the reasons he justified such searches was that the dogs were only trained to find drugs, which were illegal contraband, not money or other legal items. How is it, then, that this hound is trained to find money?

The Globe-News offered this justification: "A drug dog alerting to cash suggests that drugs may have been in contact with the money at some time, according to DPS." Of course, a large percentage of currency in circulation has come into contact with drugs.

The standard for seizing cash in civil court is lower than the standard to convict the driver of a crime. A lot will depend on what the motorist said to the trooper. Since dog alerts don't provide probable cause by themselves for currency, law enforcement must compile other evidence (like inconsistent stories from the driver) in order to make their case.

Like I said, I have no evidence to dispute it and have no knowledge of this case, but the account in the Globe News doesn't make sense to me. Perhaps the dog was brought in under less than consensual circumstances, to make a bad search seem justifiable? In any case, something's missing from this account. Hope the trooper had audio/video in the car.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Couple of Points:

How do you know the driver admitted the money was his/hers?

If they did, a bank withdrawal or some other written form of proof will establish ownership.

In most cases, the driver, absent any drug find, will tell the officer they don't know how the money got in there. They will claim the money is not theirs. In those cases, the state or feds are required advertise in a newspaper or similar publication to find an owner. Owners don't come forward so if the driver didn't admit to owning the money, that seizure's over.
When a police officer stops a car for traffic reasons but suspects more, they always call a dog even when they get consent. A dog alerts where to look. It saves time, especially on a highway stop so the purpose of a dog isn't just to establish probable cause without consent.
Probable cause has evolved from a legal requirement into a creative writing assignment and the probable cause to search that car for speeding was in that trooper's mind before the car was stopped.

Anonymous said...

get enough dough together, and you're probably going to alert a drug sniffing dog. aint none of it clean.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I don't know what the driver said to the trooper - that's why this is all speculation. That granted, I see no need to prove through paperwork that cash in my possession belongs to me. If I say it's mine, get a warrant if you have reason to think it's not, then prove it.

What's more, if police find something that belongs to neither me nor them on my property, I wonder why it should automatically become their's not mine? Should it? Whaddya think?

BTW, I enjoyed this line: "Probable cause has evolved from a legal requirement into a creative writing assignment." Best,

Biohazard said...

"why would someone allegedly ferrying drug money consent to a search?"

People do it all the time. I have had people provide consent when they had bricks of marijuana in the trunk. The reason I usually get is that they gave consent because they didn't want to appear guilty by saying no. In addition, they hoped that by saying yes, they would call my bluff and I wouldn't search. Crazy but true. Thank goodness for human nature.

"the trooper already had permission to search. He didn't need probable cause, so why bring in a drug sniffing dog?"

I would think you would be happy the trooper asked consent before bringing in the dog. Don't you have a huge problem with k9 sniffs not requiring PC? Perhaps the trooper wanted to use the dog to help isolate any specific areas. There are a lot of places in a car to hide dope.

Anonymous said...

Cops are losers! Hell these guys have been fighting the so called "war on drugs," for what over 30 years?

They are nothing but road side thieves!

Anonymous said...

"see no need to prove through paperwork that cash in my possession belongs to me"

That much money is only legally probative. It's not per se against the law to have, however if it doesn't belong to you and you say that, the police can take it and hold it for the rightful owner; which is where the advertisement comes in. If you claim you own it, then the police have a limited responsibility to prove it's not stolen and it's legally in you possession. That's all. Later if no one claims it, it's forfeited as "abandoned property" but your analysis of the problem is missing the point.
Police officer who write volumes of tickets (winners or losers) write them so they can go to court. When police officers go to court they get paid overtime not regular time so the incentive is to write tickets for overtime.
Police officers stop cars and ask for searches because the car may contain money and seized money goest back to the department. Money that goes back to the department is a good thing so the incentive for the stop isn't enforcement it's money.
Take the incentive of the money away and watch the integrity dynamics of this whole problem change.

Anonymous said...

Factually, there is only the unsubstantiated claim that the driver consented, and only $32,000 to show for whatever money was taken.

Let's assume for the moment there was no permission given, a larger amount of money was seized, and only $32,000 turned in to cover up the crime. Now we see we have prima facie evidence of armed robbery committed by the police, plus filing a false police report, false arrest, kidnapping, and false imprisonment, for starters.

Anonymous said...

Here is a audio clip from drugtruth.net. I believe they are out of Houston, Texas.

http://drugtruth.net/cbaudio06/COL_052606.mp3

You may have to "cut and paste," but it's well worth listening to.

They discuss about drug dogs and how they cops get away with drug searches, using drug dogs.

Anonymous said...

"Police officer who write volumes of tickets (winners or losers) write them so they can go to court. When police officers go to court they get paid overtime not regular time so the incentive is to write tickets for overtime."

What ignorant speculation. I get a kick out of you anti-cop types who think you have us all figured out. Having served for over 12 years, I have issued thousands of tickets. I've been to traffic court twice in twelve years. We don't do it for money. Oh wait a second, we do, because it's our job. That's it.
It's like saying teachers like failing their students so they can teach in summer school.

Anonymous said...

"What ignorant speculation. I get a kick out of you anti-cop types who think you have us all figured out. Having served for over 12 years, I have issued thousands of tickets. I've been to traffic court twice in twelve years. We don't do it for money. Oh wait a second, we do, because it's our job. That's it."

Please. One cop doesn't speak for the whole department so if the overtime/ticket thing is wrong give us the name of your department so we can check the overtime records and see how much of the departments overtime is court related.
There are three shifts for every department. Two of those shifts occur when courts aren't in session so at least two of the shifts have to be paid overtime for court.
Then factor in the types of tickets. Some traffic tickets require more court calls than others. Speeding tickets require nothing.
Those are two pretty good reasons that ignorance is also alive and well inside your police department.

Anonymous said...

This is to the ignorant cop:

Sure it's your job, it's all about money! Nowhere in your statement did you say, you do it to "protect" people.

You said thousands of tickets you have wrote? Why not tell us of the thousands of crimes you have prevented? It's sort of hard to prevent crimes, when all your good at is being a pencil pusher writing those tickets

Any monkey can write out a ticket.

biohazard said...

"Why not tell us of the thousands of crimes you have prevented?"

Please tell me how you can know about specific crimes you prevented? If the crimes didn't happen, how would the officer know about them? Your statement was one of the dumbest things I have seen on this site in awhile.

Do you think that an officer's presence on the road might be a deterrent to people speeding and driving recklessly? If so, wouldn't this most likely prevent accidents? Think about it.

Anonymous said...

"Please. One cop doesn't speak for the whole department so if the overtime/ticket thing is wrong give us the name of your department so we can check the overtime records and see how much of the departments overtime is court related.
There are three shifts for every department. Two of those shifts occur when courts aren't in session so at least two of the shifts have to be paid overtime for court.
Then factor in the types of tickets. Some traffic tickets require more court calls than others. Speeding tickets require nothing."

I'm not allowed to speak for my department, but you're allowed to make blanket generalizations about how we allegedly work the system to make more money. Oh, I see how it is.

Now, let me tell you how misinformed you are.

How do you know how many shifts my department has? Mine has five, not three as you say. Three of the shifts work during court hours.

The bulk of overtime in my department, by far, comes from report writing after shift.

Municipal court hearings are scheduled one day a month and all trials are cleared or held within three or four hours. Not everyone who gets a ticket fights it.

Speeding, contrary to your assertion, is the most often contested citation. The two times I've been to Municpal court, in twelve years mind you, the violation contested was speeding.

I'll admit I've been ignorant about some things, but would you? Probably not.

Anonymous said...

"This is to the ignorant cop:

Sure it's your job, it's all about money! Nowhere in your statement did you say, you do it to "protect" people.

You said thousands of tickets you have wrote? Why not tell us of the thousands of crimes you have prevented? It's sort of hard to prevent crimes, when all your good at is being a pencil pusher writing those tickets

Any monkey can write out a ticket.

Mr. or Ms. Cop Hater,

My ignorance is only surpassed by your bastardization of English grammar.

That being said, I love my job. Yes, I do it for money. I have a family to support. Why do you work? Do you work for money?

As far as protecting people, it's implied in my job title, and it should go without saying.

My department assigned me to traffic enforcement. In the two years I worked that detail, I recovered several weapons and arrested many people with warrants, some for dangerous felonies like murder, robbery and sexual assault, all because they committed a traffic violation.
I won't even mention the intoxicated drivers.

Did I tell you about the thousands of warnings I've given?

See you on the road, my friend!

Hey biohazard, thanks for the roll-by!

Anonymous said...

"How do you know how many shifts my department has? Mine has five, not three as you say. Three of the shifts work during court hours."

That still means two shifts have to be paid overtime which is what I said. Secondly, court is held in most areas of the U.S. from 9am until 4pm. Do the math. In order to have three eight hour shifts covering that realistic time span, you're fudging. Oh I get it, "court hours" is the phrase you used. That's when court is scheduled so you're only fudging with good facts.

"The bulk of overtime in my department, by far, comes from report writing after shift."

So if you're real active during your eight hour shift, you get to stay over and actively write. Pardon me, I'm wrong. Instead of court, you pay overtime for writing. How silly of me to think volumes of tickets equal court.

"Speeding, contrary to your assertion, is the most often contested citation. The two times I've been to Municpal court, in twelve years mind you, the violation contested was speeding."

Speeding is a strict liability crime and if you've only been to court twice in twelve years, I apologize. How much overtime did you make from WRITING the thousands of traffic tickets after your shift that you only went to court on in twelve years TWICE?

I'll admit I'm ignorant but only because I thought writing police reports was part of your eight hour job.

Anonymous said...

I never said it was my overtime that was increased because of report writing. When I worked traffic, I made my stops, wrote my tickets, came in at the end of the shift, turned in the tickets, and went home. The officers working regular patrol take a bulk of the overtime because of the volume of calls for service. They are unable to complete the reports on the road, so they are forced to finish them before they go home. The two extra "overlap" shifts in my department were created to alleviate that problem and so far have been successful.

I think your premise that, "if I write more tickets, then I'll get more overtime because I'll have to go to court," is flawed. It's a misconception that I've heard before and as experienced in my department, is untrue. If I want to manufacture overtime for myself, writing traffic tickets wasn't going to do it.

I'll admit that I can only speak for my department and that there are O.T hogs out there, but I don't think it's as widespread as you think.

Rusty said...

There comes a time we must all face the realities we live with and in. The war on drugs is a failure by it's own lack of ability and lack of merit. For 80+ years the manipulation of the truth and the propaganda to keep this cash cow rolling has got to end! It has gotten so bad our prisons and jails are now " PEOPLE RANCHING FOR PROFIT"! Those that want control and power and money, ON BOTH SIDES legal and illegal are determined to keep things as they are, for their own biases and greed and need for power! I invite every American and those of the world to visit our organizations web site at www.leap.cc which stands for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. We are present and ex-law enforcement, Governors, Judges, DA, DEA all walks of life banding together to end the most harmful policy ever perpetrated against our people and our country, that being the war on drugs!

Rusty White
Speaker www.leap.cc

Rusty said...

Did you know using a dog to create probable cause is wrong and should be illegal? If drugs are so prevalent in our society to the point we need to give up our rights. Then it is not possible that your car can be tainted by others beyond your control, therefore the search from outside the car is tainted as well! If your at the store and a person pulls up beside your car and has been smoking pot and when he gets out of his car and puts his hand on your car. That scent will stay there for over 24 hrs at 70 miles an hour! If the person working on your car, changing the oil , rotating the tires, what ever, if they are using drugs that scent is left on and in your car! If this is not a possibility, THEN THERE IS NO NEED TO GIVE UP ANY MORE FREEDOMS AND RIGHTS! If it is legal to take money solely because the dog alerts on it. Then why is it if I took my dog into " ANY " bank it would alert on the money, yet that money isn't taken? Because there are no drugs present, right. Well if one count of drug money laundering is proven, should all the money be taken? If your on vacation going through Texas, and your carrying 2000 dollars for the trip. Some one with you smokes a Joint and leaves the roach in the ash tray, and then you get stopped. The visible roach give the officer reason to search. They put the dog on your 2000 dollars and he marks, EVEN knowing the money IS ALREADY tainted from the bank. THEY TAKE IT! Are you going to come back from New York spend 5or6 thousand more dollars to get back 2000? NO! You have just been LEGALY ROBBED BY THOSE SWORN TO PROTECT AND SERVE!!!
Rusty White
Speaker www.leap.cc

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