In the practice of special counter-drug patrols, cars and semi-trucks are pulled over on excuses of small infractions. The targets have out of state license plates. They are then "asked" if they will allow a search of their vehicle. (Just say NO!) The police are looking for cash. The cash is then seized on the suspicion that it is drug profits. The driver is pushed to deny ownership to make the legal proceedings simpler. The cash is then kept by the law enforcement agencies involved in seizing it. If the Citizen wants his money back, the prosecutor's office requires them to fight for it, with lawyers, sometimes for years, at considerable cost.
While it was Tennessee's journalists that uncovered it here, these shakedowns are not just happening here. News Channel 5, WSMV, Nashville has been investigating the illegal seizures of property for two years, since the Institute for Justice came out with their report. What they found was an abuse of power, greed, and corruption. It is clear from the words of those in power, those stealing from The People, that it is a breach of the Constitution. The people of Tennessee are outraged over it, even though the police are targeting guests of our great state.
The Institute of Justice points out that this practice is happening elsewhere. It includes Michigan, Texas, and Georgia in its reports as being worse than Tennessee, and more than half the Nation gets graded at least as bad. It found that in 2008, more than $1 Billion had been seized from individual Citizens and was being held by the Department of Justice's Assets Forfeiture Fund. Download Inst for Justice - Policing for ProfitNewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather
I encourage you to watch the video series. The defense of the practice by prosecutors and police officers should enrage you. When a police officer says "he didn't prove it wasn't drug money," it demonstrates a practice of "guilty until proven innocent."
"It is illegal to have proceeds." [of criminal activity], District Attorney General Kim Helper. The "fact that no one ever claimed the money proves it was illegal."
"The doctrine of in rem forfeiture arose from Medieval ideas, rooted in the ancient law of “deodand.” Kings, for instance, could seize an instrument that caused the death of another in order to finance the deceased’s funeral mass. The idea arose from a superstitious belief that objects acted independently to cause death." Policing for Profit, Institute of Justice
There is nothing illegal about using and/or having cash. I understand that in today's world few people use cash, but short of gold and silver, paper currency is still the closest thing to real money.
Constitutionally, it is the burden of the prosecutor and police to prove guilt in a crime, not the accused to prove innocence. This fundamental premise must be upheld in law, in legislation, and in practice.
Constitutionally, you and your property cannot be searched without proof of cause. It cannot be seized without Warrant.
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall NOT be violated.." 4th Amendment, Bill of Rights, US Constitution
".. nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." 5th Amendment, Bill of Rights, US Constitution
If you are pulled over and asked to forfeit your Rights, i.e., "Can we look in your vehicle?" Just say NO! It may be the practice, but it is un-Constitutional, for the government to presume you are guilty because you retain your rights.
What should happen now? The Governor and Legislature of Tennessee should act to remove the excuse for unlawful search and seizure. The Judges should clamp down on the practice and protect the Constitution they swore to uphold. And beginning with the DAG Kim Helper, and including every official uncovered in Channel 5's investigation, demonstrating the corrupt and un-Constitutional "justification" for these roadside shakedowns should be fired, and stripped of any chance of ever being in a position of authority again. Ms. Helper should be disbarred.
And Citizens of other States should press for their governments to do the same. I'm all for seizing the finances of criminal organizations, but that money is not guilty of anything. The owner of the money must be proven to have gained it through criminal activity, before it can be seized.