You have your own reasons for carrying cash. Perhaps the money is for a family emergency. Maybe you are planning to purchase a used vehicle from a private seller who only wants cash, or perhaps you just sold a vehicle. You might be one of many in California who do not trust banks to protect your money. No matter your reason, if police stop you while you are carrying a large amount of cash, they will likely assume you are involved in the drug trade.
Local, state and federal authorities have the power to confiscate any cash or other assets they believe you might have used for or acquired through the distribution of illegal drugs. This is called civil asset forfeiture. You should be aware of what this act of law enforcement entails and the efforts you may have to take to reclaim your wrongfully confiscated property.
Naturally, you agree that law enforcement should do all they can to prevent the manufacturing and distribution of drugs in your community. However, one of the tools police and federal agents frequently use is confiscating any money or valuables they believe are part of the drug trade with the goal of cutting off the profits of that trade.
Police do not have to charge you with a crime to seize your belongings; they only need a suspicion to take your cash, your vehicle or even your family home. Once your property is in the hands of law enforcement through civil asset forfeiture, they can keep it even if you are never convicted of a crime. In fact, if you want your belongings back, you will have to expend time and money to prove the assets are not related to any criminal activity.
Police profiting from your assets
Over the past 20 years, law enforcement agencies have seized almost $70 billion in assets, which the law then allows them to keep for their department’s needs. Even local police in states that have banned asset forfeiture can claim a finder’s fee of up to 80% if they work with federal agencies who confiscate money or property from citizens.
While California is among a handful of states that has passed laws curbing the unchecked use of asset forfeiture that profits police agencies, there is still a lot of work to be done, and you may find yourself facing the unjust seizure of your hard-earned cash or property. It is important that you understand the law and know your rights when you are dealing with these issues.