I’ve written for years about the astonishing abuses brought on by the civil asset forfeiture laws in this country. Here’s one of the most egregious cases I’ve heard of. And just look at the conversation between the newspaper and the officer who seized the money. He stopped a guy who was carrying $20,000 in cash. There wasn’t even a hint that he’d broken any law, but the officer seems to think that’s completely irrelevant:
A Monterey police officer wanted to know if he was carrying any large amounts of cash.
“I said, ‘Around $20,000,’” he recalled. “Then, at the point, he said, ‘Do you mind if I search your vehicle?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t mind.’ I certainly didn’t feel I was doing anything wrong. It was my money.”
That’s when Officer Larry Bates confiscated the cash based on his suspicion that it was drug money.
“Why didn’t you arrest him?” we asked Bates.
“Because he hadn’t committed a criminal law,” the officer answered.
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.
So he was breaking no law. The officer had no evidence at all or even any reason to suspect that the money had anything to do with a crime. But he took the money anyway, and he justifies it by saying that the guy couldn’t prove that it was legitimate. Innocent until proven guilty? What a quaint concept. Where do you think you live, in a free country with the rule of law? Worse yet, the man wasn’t even notified of a court hearing about it:
He said that, while police are required to get a judge to sign off on a seizure within five days, state law says that hearing “shall be ex parte” — meaning only the officer’s side can be heard.
That’s why George Reby was never told that there was a hearing on his case.
“It wouldn’t have mattered because the judge would have said, ‘This says it shall be ex parte. Sit down and shut up. I’m not to hear from you — by statute,” Miles added.
But it actually gets worse. The man was shopping for a car and was going to pay cash, and he had evidence on his computer that he was car shopping. But the officer chose not to even note that in his report:
George Reby said that he told Monterey officers that “I had active bids on EBay, that I was trying to buy a vehicle. They just didn’t want to hear it.”
In fact, Reby had proof on his computer.
But the Monterey officer drew up a damning affidavit, citing his own training that “common people do not carry this much U.S. currency.”
“On the street, a thousand-dollar bundle could approximately buy two ounces of cocaine,” Bates told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
“Or the money could have been used to buy a car,” we observed.
“It’s possible,” he admitted.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Bates if Reby had told him that he was trying to buy a car?
“He did,” the officer acknowledged.
“But you did not include that in your report,” we noted.
“If it’s not in there, I didn’t put it in there.”
So why did he leave that out?
“I don’t know,” the officer said.
I’d call this unbelievable,but it’s entirely believable. And all too common.