According to an affidavit filed last month in the U.S. District Court in Medford, Oregon State Police found $200,470 in cash during a traffic stop conducted on July 29, 2020, in the westbound lanes of Highway 140 near Bly.
The unnamed driver of the minivan, only identified as a resident of Newark, New Jersey, had reportedly flown to Boise, Idaho, and rented the vehicle for a 2,700-mile road trip beginning in Idaho and ending the next week in New Jersey.
The troopers who searched the vehicle allegedly found a cardboard box containing over a dozen vacuum-sealed bags of cash. Financial records and a UPS tracking number showed the driver paid $400 to have the box shipped from Kearny, NJ, to Boise, where he picked it up two days later, investigators said.
In addition to the cash, the troopers also seized two iPhones from the minivan and one iPhone from the driver’s pocket, records indicate. One of the phones contained photos of marijuana, as well as pictures of ledgers listing different marijuana strains, edibles, and vaping cartridges, according to sources.
Based on information gathered during the investigation, prosecutors claim the cash was for purchasing marijuana in Medford, which would be sold on the black market in New Jersey. Even though no criminal charges have been filed in the case, prosecutors are still seeking to seize the cash using civil forfeiture.
The New Jersey driver has reportedly petitioned federal prosecutors for his money back, stating the cash was “profits of legal business transactions,” but it is unclear if his petition will be granted.
Can federal prosecutors legally use civil forfeiture to keep cash seized in a traffic stop?
The short answer is yes. In most states, law enforcement agents can use civil forfeiture to seize cash, vehicles, real estate, and other valuables on the mere suspicion that it is connected to criminal activity, often without charging the property owner for any wrongdoing.
Civil forfeiture is distinct from criminal forfeiture, which can only be conducted if a person is convicted of a crime and prosecutors prove the property is connected to that crime. In contrast, civil forfeiture is not contingent upon a conviction and has lower standards of proof.
That said, just because police or federal agents have taken your property doesn’t mean they get to keep it. Regardless of the circumstances that led to the filing of a civil forfeiture action, property owners have a right to challenge an asset seizure and win their property back. The process is often complex and difficult, which is why anyone facing a seizure should consider consulting with an attorney who has experience fighting civil forfeiture proceedings.
Nationwide Federal Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney
Has your property been seized by police or federal agents at a traffic stop? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation and work with an experienced nationwide federal civil asset forfeiture attorney.