After the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01, the US government asked for police to become more effective in homeland security and in securing the safety of the country’s highways.
Local police officers, deputies and state troopers were told to be more aggressive in looking for people who are suspicious, and to be more on the look out for drugs and other illegal products. The Department of Homeland Security spent millions of dollars to better train local police.
Their efforts have largely succeeded, but the impact has been mostly hidden from the view of the public. More intense policing has caused hundreds of millions of dollars to be seized from drivers and other people who have never been charged with a crime.
Thousands of these people whose cash has been seized by the police have had to fight legal wars that can take a year or more to recover their money.
One of the things that has led to this rise in cash seizures is private police training organizations that teach departments how to engage in what is known as ‘highway interdiction’ across the US.
One of these companies created an intelligence network called the Black Asphalt Electronic Networking & Notification System, that allows police to share reports about American drivers, both criminal and innocent. This information includes social security data, home addresses, and data on which drivers should be stopped.
Many of these reports have been then given to various federal agencies as part of the growing law enforcement intelligence program, despite many warnings that this type of information gathering could violate privacy rights.
Today, a growing number of police officers are competing in this network to see who is able to seize the most money and drugs. They sometimes talk about their various seizures in online chat rooms on the network.
Many police officers who are active in the cash seizure programs say that many American cities can make a great deal of money for their city’s coffers by learning how to seize money from private citizens, both innocent and guilty alike.
Under current law, cash seizures may be made under either state or federal law. One of the main ways police are able to grab money and share the proceeds is through Equitable Sharing, a Department of Justice civil asset forfeiture program. This is a powerful tool that lets the government take money and property without even pressing criminal charges. Then the owner of the money or property must prove that the possessions were gotten legally.
This practice has been highly controversial since it was started at the beginning of the drug war in the early 1980s. And now, the federal government and private police training companies are encouraging their officers to seize cash on the country’s highways.
There have been nearly 62,000 cash seizures on US highways since 9/11, and no search warrants or indictments resulted, and the cash seized was more than $2.5 billion.
State and local governments kept almost $1.7 billion of that, and the federal government kept $800 million. Little of that was legally challenged, due to legal costs.
There is legal help available if you have had your cash seized illegitimately by the US government, so be sure to take action.