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.