Why Don’t You Just Let Us Hold On To That

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Customers leave a struggling waitress a $12,000 tip. Thinking they may have accidentally left it behind, the waitress calls the police. When the deadline for someone to claim the money passes, the police then tell the waitress that, well, they’re going to keep the money, because it’s probably drug money. They do generously offer to giver her $1,000 for letting them seize her cash.

Of course, even if it was drug money, the waitress had nothing to do with the drug crimes behind the money. And once the cash was given to her, I think most reasonable people would agree she should be allowed to keep it (the exception would of course be if it had been stolen).

But the legal fiction underlying civil asset forfeiture is that the property is guilty of the crime. So if the money was used in a drug transaction (and some jurisdictions now even argue if the money will be used in a transaction at some point in the future), the money itself is at fault, and must be forfeited, no matter who happens to be in possession of it.

Once the cash is deemed guilty, the government gets to keep it. And spend it on government things.

I guess at that point the cash is no longer guilty.  It’s just dirty.


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66 Responses to “Why Don’t You Just Let Us Hold On To That”

  1. #1 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Living next to a marijuana grow house sucks. It smells really nasty. Everyone nearby reported it because of that.

    The police? Well, eventually they got round to raiding it. Two weeks after they’d vacated the place.

  2. #2 |  SeanSatori | 

    LOL…the moment this news story popped up in my feed, I knew Radley had probably already written about it.

  3. #3 |  Shhted | 

    Update: She gets to keep it all!
    http://www.startribune.com/local/146315905.html

  4. #4 |  kurt | 

    Hot off the press.
    http://www.startribune.com/local/146315905.html

    She gets to keep the money, at least according to this report from the StarTribune. Good news

  5. #5 |  Goober | 

    The state is in far more need of that money than she is. They have Bearcats to buy, for goodness sake. What does she need to do? Feed her kids? pshaw.

  6. #6 |  Goober | 

    @ #53 – Looks like shedding the light of day on this story got some good results. Seems that the PD there has some shame, after all.

  7. #7 |  jmcross | 

    Meanwhile, somewhere deep in the bowels of MPD’s K9 compound, Officer Rusty contemplates his water bowl, his kibble and his demons.

  8. #8 |  Burgers Allday | 

    Yup. Whoever got that story in the paper in the first place deserves a third of it, whether it was her lawyer or someone else. That could not have been easy.

  9. #9 |  CyniCAl | 

    I’ll lay 7:5 that Stacy Knutsen gets some extra special attention from the local PD from now on.

  10. #10 |  Matt in Cincy | 

    I thought your headline was misleading too Radley. Maybe it’s me and the other Matt’s name. It wasn’t a tip for her, and when she caught up with the person she said “you keep it, I’m good”. Makes me think she was having second thoughts about a possible career path. Now at that point I don’t know why the waitress still called the cops unless SHE felt like it was drug money. I actually fear for the life of the woman who left it behind. I’m thinking she was a courier for a drug dealer and decided to get out.

  11. #11 |  Burgers Allday | 

    I’ll lay 7:5 that Stacy Knutsen gets some extra special attention from the local PD from now on.

    at policeone, the popos were glad she got it back.

    I don’t think popos feel strongly about this kind of “interdiction” because it is not a career path (as contrasted with, say, searching cars).

  12. #12 |  Arthur | 

    #55 Yep, the coproaches do scurry for cover when that kitchen light clicks on.

  13. #13 |  Delta | 

    #36 | Other Sean: “This is even worse than you think. Like most government workers, cops are totally indifferent to matters of money and revenue. They don’t seize cash like this because of an incentive to collect funds for their employer.”

    What I was told by an NYPD acquaintance is that this is referred to internally as “paying the rent”, and that it’s drilled into them monthly that their uniforms, badges, boots, cars, etc., have to paid for by revenue-acquisition means (tickets, etc.).

  14. #14 |  John C. Randolph | 

    The cops stole twelve grand from a woman who shouldn’t have trusted them. That’s the long and short of it, and if I were in her shoes I’d file a criminal complaint for grand larceny, and PRESS CHARGES.

    If the local DA won’t step up and prosecute the perps, then she should file federal charges and name him as an accessory to the crime. If she needs help litigating this, I know I’d happily chip in a few bucks to a legal action fund, and I’m sure there are thousands of people on Reddit who’d do likewise.

    -jcr

  15. #15 |  CyniCAl | 

    You’re probably right Burgers. Cops aren’t vindictive, petty assholes who hold grudges against “inferiors” who show them up and have virtually unlimited power to take revenge against them and ruin their lives.

    My bad.

  16. #16 |  Youguessedit | 

    Welcome to the fascist states of amerika. One more reason why you should NEVER, under any circumstances or for any reason whatsoever, trust a cop.