The other day, I posted the news article about my recent victory in the appellate court. For my purposes here, the appellated decision comes at a most opportune time considering the discussions I have posted to this point. Consider the traffic stop posts. This case is an example of how cooperation can be manipulated into you being prosecuted and having your property seized, even if you have done nothing wrong. In this case, the traffic stop was for failing to signal a lane change long enough (100 feet). No ticket was ever written for this alleged violation. Some cultures in our country do not have a tradition consistent with European banking practices and are more comfortable handling financial transactions among themselves. All of this is perfectly legal and no criminal conduct is implicated. For example, Zerkin (a fictional person of non-descript ethnicity) wants to start a business, so the community bands together and pools their resources. The community may be spread across several states in this fund raising. Zerkin is told there has been a collection made and he can pick up his business funds at Moneyville, State of Joy. He drives there, picks up his investment funds and starts to return home. On the return trip Officer Ever Vigilant stops him for a minor traffic infraction because he has an out of state license plate. He is warned about the violation and about to be released, when the “take a quick look” question is posed. Zerkin not fearing for having done anything illegal says, “Sure”. He watches as the “quick look” turns into seats being removed and placed on the roadside. This is not what he envisioned, but it is what happens. His investment funds are found and he is accused of possessing drug proceeds. He had hidden the money to protect himself against robbery or theft if someone broke into the car and rummaged around. Zerkin is now in the world of the criminal justice prosecution. He doesn’t use drugs. He had no drugs on him and none were found in the car. Later, Officer Vigilant testifies that he has no knowledge of Zerkin ever being involved in any drug transactions and cannot said specifically where the mone came from. He admits that he has no facts which support the violation of any drug law. The criminal case against Zerkin gets dismissed but the state continues to keep his property and makes him fight to get back what should have never been taken to begin with. The property was kept on no probable cause, no articulable basis, just the whim of the officer to seize and the capriciousness of the state to keep it.
This is the nature of the current application of seizure and forfeiture laws in this country. The state, through these laws, can sit by the side of the road, stop travelers and seize anything believed of value without the slightest fear of retribution.
This cautionary tale is based on facts. It demonstrates the reasons for the warnings whch I put in the prior posts. Again, if stopped, be polite but business like. Provide the required documents. Do not be enticed into a seemingly “friendly” conversation — it isn’t — with the officer it is business. Do not consent to a search. If the officer has probable cause he does not need your consent. Do not consent to wait for a drug dog. If the officer persists in you not leaving — you have been seized and that is a 4th Amendment issue. Do not attempt to explain the law to any officer on the side of the road.
BE SAFE OUT THERE AND BE RIGHTS AWARE. IF YOU DO NOT USE THEM YOU WILL LOSE THEM