Thanks to the hard work of Americans for Forfeiture Reform policy analyst Scott Meiner, AFR has been asked to submit an amicus brief in an asset forfeiture case that is being appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Below is a brief video I’ve made describing the case (yes, I know the video quality isn’t great; we haven’t had the money for a HD camera yet):
Meiner describes the Terrence Durr seizure and litigation in his post, “A Peculiar Idea of Proof“:
United States District Judge Clay D. Land has ordered the forfeiture of $21,175 seized from two ex-convicts by Deputy Drew Crane, of the Harris County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office.
Neither of the men were convicted, arrested, or charged. No drugs or drug paraphernalia were reported on the men from whom the currency was seized. The claimant of the currency, Terrance Durr, has a 1996 felony drug conviction and a subsequent parole violation. Durr also has documented gainful employment–including an 8 year work history as a draft technician with Adam’s Beverage, an Anheuser Busch distributor.
The government presented no specific cognizable evidence of any drug transaction (or intended drug transaction) linking the currency to any specific illicit behavior. Durr presented evidence of why he had a substantial amount of cash on his person. The court found Durr’s evidence, and reasoning, unpersuasive.
What the ruling appears to boil down to is
- Durr is an ex-con;
- Durr had a fairly large amount of currency;
- The police wanted his currency;
- The police found his currency;
- Police recorded a positive K9 alert on his currency and on his companion’s vehicle;
- The officer said that the vehicle smelled of alcohol and marijuana;
- Durr cannot prove that his money was not intended, or derived from, something to do with drugs to the satisfaction of the court; and
- Thus, the government has “proved” that Durr’s cash constitutes proceeds traceable to an exchange for a controlled substance.
This is utter nonsense.
Durr may have intended to use the money for narcotics. Or perhaps he was going to do something else. We do not know. Nobody else knows either–except maybe Terrance Durr.
Durr presented evidence that he intended to travel to Atlanta, GA to negotiate with a bank on the imminent foreclosure of a dilapidated rental property that he owned. Prosecutors easily poked holes in the sensibility of his plan. However, they failed to offer evidence that the money was drug related–unless we are to assume that the means, a criminal record, and unreliable evidence meet the burden. Following this standard of proof would add a lot of forfeiture victims.
There are infinite possibilities as to how he got the money and to what he intended to do with it–whether they be licit or illicit. But reasonable jurisprudence ought to tether forfeiture to a showing of substantial connection between specific articulated criminal acts and proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
AFR’s amicus brief will likely focus on the insufficiency of the nexus issue (that is to say, the complete government’s inability to establish a nexus between any crime and the seized cash and Judge Land’s breathtaking leaps of logic to justify the forfeiture).