Two Dallas detectives searched a 25-year-old Chicago woman’s suitcase at Dallas Love Field Airport on Dec. 2 and seized more than $100,000 from the bag….
Detectives say they smelled a drug odor before they searched the woman’s luggage without her permission but did not arrest her and haven’t charged her with a crime. The woman was flying domestically and had a layover at the Dallas airport.
Civil asset forfeiture allows police to seize, then keep or sell the property they allege was involved in a crime, leaving someone whose property was seized to go to court to try to get it back.
A police K-9 alerted two detectives with the Dallas Police Department to a black, checked-in suitcase secured by a lock.
The dog, named Ballentine, is trained to pick up the scent of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine.
A police report does not name what city the suitcase was headed for, The Dallas Morning News reported.
However, the bag was set to be transferred to another plane. According to the report, detectives felt they had to act quickly with a search warrant because it “would not be obtained in time and could cause an undue burden to the passengers and or airlines,” the report says.
According to the report, detectives found shipping bags wrapped in blankets containing $100, $50, $20, $10, $5 and $1 bills inside the suitcase. There were no clothes or other items in the luggage.
When detectives found the woman in the airport terminal, she told them she was a dancer who worked in real estate and that she had sold a house.
Convinced the woman obtained the money through an illegal drug deal, detectives seized the cash. The woman signed a property receipt for the money, police say. Police did not arrest the woman or charge her with a crime.
The Dallas Police Department celebrated the seizure on social media. A post to the department’s Facebook page showed Ballentine posing beside the cash.
“We need to get him some treats! K-9 Officer Ballentine does it again! On 12/2/21, the Love Field Interdiction Squad seized over $100,000 with the help of Ballentine. Good job, Ballentine!” the caption read.
The FBI has confirmed it took possession of the money.
Under Texas law, authorities can seize assets without charging a person with a crime. Black Americans are disproportionately searched and targeted for seizure, a South Carolina study found.
Up to 80 percent of people whose assets are seized by authorities are never charged with a crime.
Institute for Justice attorney Dan Alban told CBS11 that, while it’s legal to travel with any amount of money domestically, agencies consider flying with large amounts of cash suspicious.
“Unfortunately, both TSA and DEA have policies that treat what they consider to be large amounts of money as presumptively suspicious and indicative of criminal activity,” Alban said.
Travelers leaving or flying into the U.S. must declare amounts of cash of at least $10,000.
Since 2000, $68 billion in civil assets have been seized by the government, according to the Institute for Justice.
A spokesperson for the police department told CBS11, “Detectives assigned to Love Field are thoroughly trained and experienced in various criminal interdiction techniques and tactics, many of which were utilized during this incident. Due to the nature of this seizure, as well as where it occurred, it will be subject to follow up investigation with our Federal partners.”
Maybe and maybe not. Seems that if you seize someone’s property or money maybe stronger justification should be in place other than suspicion.
Last year in Florida a class action lawsuit was filed in regard to law enforcement seizing cash from individuals who had committed no crime.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will return more than $43,000 it seized from a Tampa woman at an airport after she joined a class-action lawsuit challenging the agency’s practice of using civil asset forfeiture to confiscate cash from travelers.
The DEA seized $43,167 from Stacy Jones last May as she was trying to fly home to Tampa, Florida, from Wilmington, North Carolina. Jones says the cash was from the sale of a used car, as well as money she and her husband intended to take to a casino.
Jones is now a named plaintiff in a class-action civil rights lawsuit filed in January by the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm. Although it is legal to fly domestically with large amounts of undeclared cash, the Institute for Justice lawsuit claims that the DEA and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have a practice or policy of seizing currency from travelers at U.S. airports without probable cause simply if the dollar amount is greater than $5,000. This practice, the suit argues, violates travelers’ Fourth Amendment rights.
In a Nov. 12 letter to Jones’ attorney, the DEA announced it would be returning all of Jones’ money.
“Getting my money back is a big relief, but DEA never should have taken it in the first place,” Jones said in an Institute for Justice press release. “In going through this nightmare, I found out that I’m not the only innocent American who has been treated this way. I hope that my continuing lawsuit will end the government’s practice of treating people flying with cash like criminals.”
Under civil asset forfeiture laws, police and prosecutors can seize property when that property is suspected of being connected to criminal activity, even if the owner is never charged or convicted of a crime. Law enforcement groups say the practice allows them to disrupt organized crime, like drug trafficking, by targeting its illicit proceeds.
However, civil liberties groups say civil asset forfeiture has too few procedural protections for property owners and creates perverse incentives for police to seize cash based on mere suspicion.
Reason reported on Jones’ case in September, when she joined the class-action suit as a plaintiff:
After flying from Tampa to North Carolina for a casino reopening last May, Stacy Jones and her husband had dinner with friends, who were interested in buying a car the couple owned. They paid for it in cash. When the couple had to cut their trip short because of a death in the family, Jones put that money, along with cash she had for gambling, in a carry-on bag and headed for the airport in Wilmington, never considering the possibility that she was about to be robbed of $43,000 by the DEA.
A local sheriff’s deputy, alerted to the presence of seizable cash by TSA screeners, grilled Jones and her husband about the money and deemed their explanation fishy, even after he called their friend, who confirmed the car purchase but was unable to say exactly how many miles were on the odometer. The deputy called in two DEA agents, who interrogated the couple some more and then announced that they were seizing the money based on their suspicion that it was related to drug trafficking.
One of the other named plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Terrence Rolin, a 79-year-old retired railroad engineer, had his life savings of $82,373 seized by the DEA after his daughter, Rebecca Brown, tried to take it on a flight out of Pittsburgh with the intent of depositing it in a bank. After the case went public, the DEA returned the money.
In 2016, a USA Today investigation found the DEA seized more than $209 million from at least 5,200 travelers in 15 major airports over the previous decade.
A 2017 report by the Justice Department Office of Inspector General found that the DEA seized more than $4 billion in cash from people suspected of drug activity over the previous decade, but $3.2 billion of those seizures were never connected to any criminal charges.