It usually starts on the road somewhere. An officer pulls you over for some minor infraction — changing lanes without proper signalling, following the car ahead too closely, straddling lanes. The offence is irrelevant.
Then the police officer wants to chat, asking questions about where you’re going, or where you came from, and why. He’ll peer into your car, then perhaps ask permission to search it, citing the need for vigilance against terrorist weaponry or drugs.
What he’s really looking for, though, is money.
It sounds like something plunked from an oligarchy on the verge of implosion, which is probably right on the money.
Seizing suspected drug money has been legal here for decades, but after 9/11 police acquired a whole new set of powers and justifications. And they set about using them for profit.
The Washington Post this week reported that in the past 13 years, there have been 61,998 cash seizures on roadways and elsewhere without use of search warrants. The total haul: $2.5 billion, divided pretty much equally between the U.S. government and state and local authorities (hence the Kafkaesque “equitable sharing” euphemism).
Half of the seizures, according to the Post, were below $8,800. Only a sixth of those who had money taken from them pursued its return. … Of those who did, though, nearly half got their money back, a statistic that fairly screams about the legitimacy of the seizures.