Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

CRIME Good Idea, Bad Result

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

CRIME Good Idea, Bad Result

Article excerpt

Civil asset forfeitures spring from good intentions.

By seizing property that they suspect was used in a crime or was bought with money obtained illegally, law-enforcement agencies can shut down drug houses and hit "crime bosses" where it hurts most -- in the wallet.

That is in theory. But there is a tendency for law enforcement agencies, hungry to money to supplement tight budgets, to use that power zealously.

U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., tells of Willie Jones, an African-American from Nashville. Police, thinking it suspicious that Jones was paying cash for an airline ticket, searched him. They found $9,600 in cash, on which a police dog detected traces of drugs.

Even though 97 percent of all currency apparently now has such traces, they seized the money -- which nearly drove Jones' landscaping service out of business. Jones, who was never charged with a crime, does not have the $960 bond needed to mount a challenge.

Jones, unfortunately, is fairly typical. …

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