The Washington Post is running a three part series on police ďconfiscatingĒ cash from motorists they stop on the highways. Millions of dollars are disappearing from cars into police hands. Americaís police forces were given authority to seize cash under certain limited conditions by laws passed by Congress intended to reduce drug traffic on the highways, but police forces around the country have turned the practice into a money making scheme to pay for new equipment and other perceived needs of police forces. The full story is at the Washington Post, but, meanwhile, here are some tips to help avoid having money stolen from you while traveling:
1. Donít carry large amounts of cash. If you are transferring cash for personal or business needs, get a cashierís check made out to the payee or send the cash by wire or other transfer. It is safer than traveling the roads these days with cash to send it, rather than carry it. If the cashierís check is made out to you, the police canít cash it unless you sign it over to them (donít) One other possibility: have the check made out to a trusted person, such as a relative, who will be at the end of your journey. Then, you can go to the bank, cash the check with that person and have your money. If you arenít traveling with cash, the police can hardly claim you might have drug money (drug deals donít happen with checks of any sort.)
2. Donít ever put an air freshener hanging on your rearview mirror. This is one of the signs that police look for to indicate it might be a drug car, used for repeated, long distance travel.
3. Never let trash, like fast food wrappers, etc., pile up on the seats or on the floorboards of the car. A dirty car is another sign for police that you might be a long distance drug courier. If you have food trash, put it in one bag and out of sight, like in the back floorboard on the passenger side or underneath something you are carrying with you. Hide it. Also: if you use energy drinks, donít leave the cans lying about.
4. If you tend to get very nervous if stopped by police, try to act as calm as possible. Wear a sweater or some other clothing that covers up your neck area. The police are taught to look for a pulsing carotid artery in your neck as a sign of extreme nervousness.
5. If you must carry more than one thousand dollars in cash, try to wrap it in such a way that it does not emit a smell. Wrapped very tightly in plastic wrapping, put inside another bag and then inside a small suitcase. Inside your trunk is safer than inside the car. The police may not search the glove compartment or trunk without permission. (There are indications that some police have trained drug sniffing dogs to sniff out cash, then, if the question arises, they can tell a judge that the dog ďalertedĒ, justifying a further search, which then turned up the cash.)
6. If the police ask you where you are going and why, act calm. They are not entitled to this information, but just respond directly and honestly in short sentences. ďI am going to my motherís house in AlabamaĒ. ďI am going to start a new job in KansasĒ. Your answers do not have to be true (you havenít been sworn), but if you change your answers, hesitate about what you are saying or otherwise seem confused, you will arouse suspicions (Lying to police can be a legal charge after the fact in some circumstances. Consult a lawyer for the complete answer on this issue.).
7. After stopping you, checking your license and registration and then giving you a ticket, the police do not have the authority to detain your longer. You may go on your way. If you get a mean or angry officer, they might tell you otherwise. Donít believe them. If you go about your travels, it is always possible that the same officer, being angry, might pull you over again.. If that happens, pull off again and ask what the problem is, calmly. If they say they want you to stay for a drug dog to come, tell them you donít have any drugs and you want to go on your way. From that point forward, it is up to you as to whether you feel threatened and decide whether or not to leave. Legally, you may leave. Actually, the officer might get violent and try to stop you. Your call. Whatever you do, stay as calm as possible and donít act out of anger yourself.
8. If the police find and take money, DONíT SIGN A RELEASE GIVING THEM THE MONEY. Many officers will say that you can go on your way, not be arrested, if you sign the release. Donít do it. You are in for eight months to a year of legal troubles getting the money back once they have it and the waiver only makes it much harder.
9. Know your legal rights and try not to be intimidated. Remain calm at all times and donít be argumentative. Assert your rights, but donít be belligerent.
10. Stay calm, reasonable and cooperative.
11. Donít give the police permission to search your car. They canít search without a warrant or without your permission. You gain nothing by allowing a search and there is always the possibility, however remote, that an officer could plant something in the vehicle, meaning you would have to try to prove it wasnít yours. After youíve presented your license, registration and been given a ticket or warning, you are free to go about your business.
The TerryReport does not generally write articles about how not to cooperate with police officers. This is a special case. We consider this site an advocate for democracy and individual rights (as well as responsibilities). Americaís local police forces, in many cases, are out on the roads hunting money to take. One officer called it a ďgold mineĒ. This is theft by another name and this is a problem that has developed over a period of years and, according to the Post, is being aided by profit making companies operating in concert with police agencies. The only choice citizens have until the laws are changed and police brought to heal is to fight back quietly, honestly and calmly, knowing you might lose the immediate conflict and being prepared to take the matter to court if required. The best way to avoid a court battle is to not allow police to take the money in the first place.
Doug Terry, 9.8.14