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.