I didn’t think I could be shocked anymore by the ways police departments abuse the civil asset forfeiture laws (which are abusive enough as it is). But Radley Balko reports at the Huffington Post about one of the most outrageous cases you’ll ever hear of. Here’s the story of one family, which shows what some agencies are doing:
When the Brown County, Wis., Drug Task Force arrested her son Joel last February, Beverly Greer started piecing together his bail.
She used part of her disability payment and her tax return. Joel Greer’s wife also chipped in, as did his brother and two sisters. On Feb. 29, a judge set Greer’s bail at $7,500, and his mother called the Brown County jail to see where and how she could get him out. “The police specifically told us to bring cash,” Greer says. “Not a cashier’s check or a credit card. They said cash.”
So Greer and her family visited a series of ATMs, and on March 1, she brought the money to the jail, thinking she’d be taking Joel Greer home. But she left without her money, or her son.
Instead jail officials called in the same Drug Task Force that arrested Greer. A drug-sniffing dog inspected the Greers’ cash, and about a half-hour later, Beverly Greer said, a police officer told her the dog had alerted to the presence of narcotics on the bills — and that the police department would be confiscating the bail money.“I told them the money had just come from the bank,” Beverly Greer says. “We had just taken it out. If the money had drugs on it, then they should go seize all the money at the bank, too. I just don’t understand how they could do that.” …
It took four months for Beverly Greer to get her family’s money back, and then only after attorney Andy Williams agreed to take their case. “The family produced the ATM receipts proving that had recently withdrawn the money,” Williams says. “Beverly Greer had documentation for her disability check and her tax return. Even then, the police tried to keep their money.”
A staggering percentage of all currency in this country has traces of cocaine on them. Not because a lot of people use coke but because money circulates constantly. To use that as evidence and seize bail money based on it is as inane as any policy I’ve ever heard of. And the Greers are not alone. It’s likely that this is so outrageous that the courts would likely overturn the seizures, but as Balko notes, that may not deter agencies from continuing the practice.