By Dan Miller
August 25, 2008
This troubles me, because I fear we've embraced a warped sense of justice in an over-zealous war on drugs.
First, read the verbatim press release sent out 8/19/08 by the Cumberland County Sheriff's Department. And, as you read it, keep in mind that the man driving the truck wasn't arrested....
He wasn't charged with a crime....
In fact, he simply went on home.
Here's the press release:
Release Date: 8/19/08 MEDIA RELEASE TRAFFIC STOP NETS LARGE CASH SEIZURE On August 15, 2008, Lieutenant Investigator Casey Cox of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department, which is also assigned to the AHIDTA Middle Tennessee Drug Task Force, along with Investigator Jeff Slayton of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department, observed a tractor and trailer traveling west on I-40 in the area of Peavine Road and requested assistance of the Tennessee Highway Patrol to conduct a traffic stop of the vehicle. As Lt. Cox and Inv. Slayton continued to follow the vehicle, Trooper Adams and Trooper Robertson, which are assigned to Putnam County, conducted a traffic stop in the area of the 283 mile marker of I-40 of the tractor trailer. A K-9 Unit from the Cookeville Police Department arrived on scene, was deployed and alerted to the cab of the vehicle. During a detailed search of the vehicle, a large amount of U.S. currency was discovered in a hidden area of the truck. The total amount of cash which was seized totaled $283,210.00. The driver of the truck was identified as Jimmy Clinton Smith of Ochelata, Oklahoma. Special Agent Mike Burnette, of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, was also present and assisted with the seizure. All of the agencies, which were involved with this seizure, worked very well with each other and displayed great teamwork, dedication, and commitment to the common goal of fighting the war on illegal drugs throughout the Middle Tennessee area.
So, the recap... no crime... no arrest... no charges... no drugs found by the dog... the driver was free to go
Oh, and what happens to that quarter-of-a million dollars?
Not mentioned in the press release is the fact that it will likely be split among all the police agencies involved in the search and stop.
Some of you might recall when, in 1991, a Nashville man named Willie Smith amassed almost $10,000 in cash from his nursery business and headed for Houston to buy shrubs and flowers.
It was a trip he made several times a year, and -- as a gardening contractor -- he preferred taking cash as the most efficient way to deal with the small growers in Texas.
Wouldn't you know it.... an airline ticket agent felt compelled to notify authorities because -- of all things -- a black man had just paid for his plane ticket with cash!
Mr. Smith was detained by police, who seized the cash... all of it... cash that was part of his profits from a legitimate nursery business.
No crime... no arrest... no charges... he was free to go, minus his $10,000 which police kept.
And I recall another story a few years back of a woman who had purchased a used car and headed home, driving through Louisiana.
Police stopped her for some reason, and while searching her car they happened across, what appeared to be, a concealed compartment in the car.... a small, EMPTY compartment that could, theoretically, be used to hide something.
The woman didn't even realize it was there when she bought the car.
What did police do?
They seized her car.... they took it away from her.
Months and thousands of dollars in legal fees later, she got it back... no crime... no charges... nothing illegal uncovered, or even suspected.
If you browse the internet, you'll find countless heartbreaking stories of federal and state Asset Forfeiture Programs run amok, jeopardizing our senses of fairness and proportion.
Is this the way things are supposed to be?
Is this the American way?
Have we lost our bearings?