Three years ago, a couple was pulled over in Henry County, Illinois for speeding on Interstate 80. Their lives have never been the same.
After cops pulled them over for what initially appeared to be a routine traffic stop, things quickly spiraled out of control.
The couple, Adam and Jennifer Perry, say that instead of simply writing them a speeding ticket and letting them continue on their way, the police officers who pulled them over ended up interrogating them for hours, searching their vehicle without their consent, and ultimately, using civil forfeiture law to seize their vehicle and everything inside it, including $107,520.
The cops claimed they smelled marijuana when they pulled the Perry’s over, and claim that a search dog also identified the smell of cannabis in the car. This was their pretext for searching the Perry’s truck and detaining the couple.
The only problem: no drugs of any sort were ever found in the vehicle.
But because civil forfeiture laws allow law enforcement agents to legally take people’s property on nothing more than the allegation that the property was in some way involved with a crime, the Perry’s money and property have never been returned to them.
The Perrys are continuing to fight the Illinois officers, however, and have recently filed yet another in what has become an ongoing string of letters and complaints.
In the letter, the couple explained that Mr. Perry had “received more than $7,000 in an insurance collision payout in March 2012 and sold several vehicles for a total of about $50,000,” according to an article published at Q-C Online.
“Other assets cited in the letter included work-related income, personal savings, Social Security payments and disability payments from the state of California, where he formerly lived.”
“I even begged and said please just give me my truck back and you can keep the money and I’ll walk away from it. Still denied,” Mr. Perry wrote in the letter. “You don’t understand the emotional, physical and financial terrorism you have caused.”
“This is not Nazi Germany where you can treat people like this,” he wrote.
Unfortunately, the Perry’s story is not unique.
The ACLU has argued that wrongful asset forfeiture is a national epidemic: “Police abuse of civil asset forfeiture laws has shaken our nation’s conscience.”
“Civil forfeiture allows police to seize—and then keep or sell—any property they allege is involved in a crime. Owners need not ever be arrested or convicted of a crime for their cash, cars, or even real estate to be taken away permanently by the government.”
An in-depth analysis published by The Washington Post explains that “police agencies have used hundreds of millions of dollars taken from Americans under federal civil forfeiture law in recent years to buy guns, armored cars and electronic surveillance gear. They have also spent money on luxury vehicles, travel and a clown named Sparkles.”
The main problem is that civil forfeiture laws have become a hugely lucrative way for police departments around the country to gain quick and easy access to additional funds—funds unwillingly provided by the people these cops terrorize.
And far too often, it’s things like marijuana prohibition laws that give cops the pretext for searching and seizing people’s property. This is yet another reason why we need to legalize cannabis as quickly as possible.
Photo Credit: narcoticnews.com)