By Doug Book, editor
Thirty years ago, the Department of Justice created a civil asset forfeiture program known as “Equitable Sharing.” Though originally created for the purpose of separating drug dealers from their ill-gotten assets and cash, since 2001 Equitable Sharing has been employed by the nation’s police to score $2.5 Billion in cash and assets from citizens “who were not charged with a crime and without a warrant being issued.” It is a high-dollar confiscation scam through which 298 police departments and 210 task forces have seized as much as 20 % of their operating budgets “…despite a federal ban [on the use of such money] to pay salaries or otherwise support budgets.”
A 2014 Washington Post article revealed that Equitable Sharing resulted in “…61,998 cash seizures made on highways and elsewhere since 9/11 without search warrants or indictments.” And this plunder was indeed shared equitably with $1.7 billion going to state and local authorities as “…the Department of Justice, Homeland Security and other federal agencies received $800 million. Half of the seizures were below $8,800.” The rather meager number of less than $8,800 hardly represents automobiles, airplanes or vacation homes confiscated from international drug rings.
How far removed are the nation’s police from the “Protect and Serve” mission we hear so much about? In 2012, John Anderson of San Clemente, California was pulled over by part-time deputy David Frye in Seward County Nebraska for “failing to signal promptly when changing lanes.” The stop for an issued warning ticket took just 13 minutes.
But according to court papers filed by Frye, he claimed to find “…several indicators of possible suspicious activity: an air freshener, a radar detector and inconsistencies in the driver’s description of his travels.” The Deputy asked Anderson if he was in possession of cocaine, heroin or large amounts of money and then sought permission to search Anderson’s BMW. When Anderson declined permission for the search, Frye “…radioed for a drug-sniffing dog, and [Anderson] had to wait another 36 minutes for the dog to arrive.” “I’m just going to, basically, have you wait here,” Frye told him. Upon arrival, the dog was said to have indicated the presence of drugs and although none were found, Frye confiscated $25,180 found in Anderson’s car.
And here’s the kicker. Frye handcuffed Anderson and told him he was under arrest. “Drug currency is illegal in Nebraska,” said Frye as he offered the undoubtedly shaken Anderson the following deal: “You’re going to be given an opportunity to disclaim the currency…to sign a form that says, ‘That is not my money. I don’t know anything about it. I don’t want to know anything about it. I don’t want to come back to court.’ ” Anderson was not read his Miranda rights until over an hour had passed in the “arrest” procedure. An hour later, after signing away his $25,000, Anderson was permitted to go. Fearing arrest, the possible destruction of career and reputation and how one might be treated over 1000 miles from home by a LEO obviously more interested in cash than justice, I wonder how many of us would follow Anderson’s example? Anderson has since gone to court to retrieve his money, saying he signed the waiver because he felt intimidated by Frye.
Deputy Frye committed a number of unconstitutional actions during his “arrest” of John Anderson. And though he will probably retrieve his money, Anderson will undoubtedly be required to sign away his right to sue, that being SOP for others who have decided to take a stand after having been intimidated by police into parting with money or property.
Could an innocent John Anderson have avoided the nerve-wracking hours of threat and intimidation suffered at the hands of a Deputy whose behavior was far more suggestive of John Dillinger than a member of law enforcement? The answer is yes. This week, Coach is Right will review the ways in which motorists may protect their rights from an officer trained to intimidate and confiscate rather than protect and serve.
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