Carrying Cash You Must Be a Crook

| July 27, 2001

Carrying Cash? You Must Be a Crook! Greg Land, Creative Loafing Atlanta
It's common knowledge that police and Customs agents give extra scrutiny to travelers carrying large amounts of cash. But civil libertarians were outraged by recent revelations of quiet agreements between the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and rail and air carriers to share the proceeds from seizures of travelers' cash. The reports have sparked renewed criticism of federal forfeiture laws, writes Greg Land in Atlanta's alt weekly Creative Loafing. Land describes a recent case in which an Amtrak ticket agent tipped off the DEA when a Vietnamese man paid cash for a one-way ticket from California to Boston. 'Agents boarded the train and asked to search his belongings,' Land recounts. 'They didn't find any drugs, but they found $149,000, which the man said were gambling winnings.' When the man sued, his lawyer discovered that Amtrak would keep 10 percent of the take, provided the lawsuit was unsuccessful. Forfeiture laws allow police to seize assets they suspect were used to commit a crime or were obtained by criminal means. In what Land calls 'a bizarre inversion of American jurisprudence,' the owner must then sue to prove the innocence of his or her assets.
--Leif Utne
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