A recent case of civil asset forfeiture at an airport in Phoenix, Arizona deprived a man of almost $40,000 in cash.
According to press sources, the man allegedly flew to Phoenix to buy a semi-truck for his business. He didn’t spend any of the money and was catching his flight home when he was relieved of his cash at the airport. Authorities accused him of illegally obtaining the money, but he was never charged for any wrongdoing.
The Phoenix man saw no alternative but to file a civil lawsuit to get his money back. His attorneys argued that he was never charged with any crime, but the authorities still held his money. The agents who seized his cash also had no concrete evidence to connect it to any alleged criminal activities. Additionally, the man invoked a 2017 revision that requires law enforcement agencies to have clear and convincing evidence to seize property.
Unfortunately, the judge hearing the case ruled in favor of the authorities. Even though the man presented financial statements to prove his legal ownership of the money, the judge was unconvinced. According to the ruling, what sealed the man’s fate were his inconsistent accounts of what happened, his past criminal record, and his alleged nervous behavior. Furthermore, the ruling also justified the seizure because of the the man’s alleged last-minute ticket purchase, three mobile phones, and the money smelling of marijuana. The man’s legal team have submitted the case for appeal, and litigation is still ongoing.
As bad as it sounds, the man’s case is not unique. There have been numerous incidents of local and federal law enforcement agencies taking huge amounts of cash from passengers in airports. There is even an ongoing federal class-action lawsuit against the TSA and the DEA filed by individuals who had their cash taken away at airports.
In a similar case like the one in Phoenix, a woman traveling from an airport in Pittsburgh, PA, with $82,000 in cash had the money taken from her by DEA agents. The woman tried to explain that the cash belonged to her elderly father, but the agents claimed it was drug trafficking money. The woman and her father filed a class-action suit together with several other victims of airport seizures, including a woman who was flying from Tampa, FL, when $43,000 was seized from her. The victims in both cases eventually got their money back.
While it is perfectly legal to carry cash when traveling, it is also legal for authorities to take cash from passengers. According to a report by USA Today, DEA agents assigned to airports have seized an estimated $209 million from approximately 5,200 people over the last decade. Until there is federal reform to forfeiture laws to better safeguard travelers carrying cash, losing money to federal agents will always be a risk.
Civil asset forfeiture can be a bad experience for travelers. Victims often require assistance from an experienced civil forfeiture attorney to get their property back. If your lawful property was seized from you at an airport, then you should immediately contact an attorney.
Nationwide Federal Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney
Has law enforcement taken your property using civil forfeiture? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation and get the assistance of a nationwide federal civil asset forfeiture attorney.