After two years of horrifying news stories and investigative reporting on the part of News Channel 5, Tennessee lawyers are ready to discuss limiting the easy way that “law enforcement” personnel are encouraged to take money away from travelers to use in their own departments. News 5 reports on the current system:
“A prime example, Rich said, is the New Jersey man who had $22,000 cash taken from him during a traffic stop. An officer took George Reby’s money based on his suspicion that it might be drug money.
“I told them that I had active bids on eBay, that I was trying to buy a vehicle. They just didn’t want to hear it,” Reby said.
The Monterey police officer had a judge to sign off on the seizure in a secret hearing, but he never told the judge about Reby’s side of the story.
“You did not include that in your report,” NewsChannel 5 Investigates noted.
“If it’s not in there, I didn’t put it in there,” Officer Larry Bates answered.
“So why would you leave that out?”
“I don’t know.”
Reby did not know there was what is called an “ex parte” hearing — meaning only the officer’s side can be heard.
“It wouldn’t have mattered because the judge would have said, ‘This says it shall be ex parte, sit down and shut up, I’m not to hear from you — by statute,'” said Union City attorney John Miles.
So the law said the cops could grab your cash on the basis of their alleged suspicion and then go justify themselves to a judge who was mandated to only listen to the cop, but not to the victim.
Odd law for a place that calls itself the Volunteer State.
But what is the proposal now under discussion to change the law? Well, when your cash gets grabbed the new bill thinks you should get an “immediate hearing” over whether or not the cops can keep your money and spend it on themselves. I’m sorry, but that is not enough. I can see the money being considered evidence if it was a great amount and there were also drugs in the car. But even if that were true it would still be the owner’s property. The police couldn’t spend it. They would need to actually convict the person of a crime in a court of law to have any power over anything belonging to their suspect.
From what I’m reading and seeing on the news story, proving that the man is guilty through due process is not even being considered. It is still assumed the state can take your money on the basis of suspicion. The only difference is that now the statute will allow you to beg a judge to let you keep your money and try to convince him that you weren’t committing a crime with it.
But this is the United States. You shouldn’t have to prove anything to remain a free man in possession of your own wads of cash. The state is obligated to prove that you are guilty beyond reasonable doubt to a jury of your peers.
Sometimes I feel like I was raised in a different world and somehow slipped into a dystopian nation with a different heritage without noticing the transition right away. The police, the judges, the legislators—they are all obligated to leave you alone unless they can prove you are guilty of a crime.