Police and Drug Money

As law enforcement budgets across the country are cut back, federal and state officers are using forfeiture laws and turning to a controversial tactic referred to as “churning” or “policing for profits.”

It happens on a daily basis: law enforcement officials pull a vehicle over after a minor traffic violation, such as failure to signal or speeding. The officer then asks the driver if he has any drugs or contraband in the vehicle and asks to perform a search. If the driver does not consent, the officer will allege that the driver is acting “suspicious,” and will often request a K9 unit and/or perform a search of the vehicle, claiming one of the several exceptions to the warrant requirement. If contraband is found, the vehicle, and any money found inside, can be seized. The money then becomes property of the government agency and is often used to fund their operations.

Sobriety checkpoints are also being used as a pretext to stop and search motorists for cash and contraband. Recently, in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, signs were placed on a roadway warning drivers of a drug checkpoint. Although no such checkpoint was actually set up, officers would look for anyone pulling off the road to avoid the checkpoint, thus giving officers an excuse to search the vehicle. If law enforcement improperly seizes an individual’s money, it can be a lengthy and expensive process through the courts to get it back.

Because the Supreme Court has held that an officer’s motivation for a pretextual stop is not to be considered, the result is law enforcement agencies targeting drug money with no regard for citizens’ rights. Furthermore, the forfeiture laws encourage such self-serving police practices, as the seizing agency is permitted to retain any assets found, without any accountability as to how the money is spent. Until a court or our government takes action, we will all be at risk on the roadways as a law enforcement target for their financial funding.

*Read the full article here: USA TODAY – Police Drug Money