Canadian News Outlet Warns Canadians That US Law Enforcement Officers Will Pull Them Over And Seize Their Cash

from the US-outed-as-serial-abuser dept

The exploitation of asset seizure/forfeiture laws by law enforcement isn’t anything new, but it is receiving a lot more attention thanks to an extensive exploration of the subject by the Washington Post. The findings are astonishing/sickening. Over the last 13 years, nearly 62,000 cash seizures have been made by law enforcement officers, resulting in a $2.5 billion haul. And that’s just the cash. Depending on local laws, people who have had their cash seized may also lose their vehicles, houses and access to any bank accounts.

Only one-sixth of those whose cash has been seized have engaged in the expensive process necessary to retrieve their money. Nearly half of those who make this attempt have their funds returned, which indicates that many of the cash seizures are predicated on tenuous legal ground (to put it very nicely). But even more bad news awaits should a citizen fight an uphill battle against an infinitely-funded opponent: in many cases, the responding governments only offer back half of what was seized and force citizens to sign a release agreement promising not to sue before they’ll hand over the check.

The abusive farce that is asset forfeiture has now reached critical mass: CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) has issued a warning to Canadian travelers. Senior Washington Correspondent Neil MacDonald posted this bluntly-titled article late last week. (via Boing Boing, which also gives us this great phrase: “robbery at badgepoint”)

American shakedown: Police won’t charge you, but they’ll grab your money

In it, he cautions Canadians that visiting the US with a bunch of cash on hand is a good way to end up short on funds. He points out that the Canadian government has no law limiting the amount of cash Canadians can take into or out of the country, but that has no bearing on what any local police force inside the US would consider to be the “legal” amount of cash a person — especially a foreign citizen — can carry. After all, half the seizures were for less than $8,800 and that number includes a college graduate (with no criminal record) who was relieved of $2,500 given to him by his parents to make a trip to California for a job interview.

MacDonald boils down his travel advice to a few bullet points that may help Canadians avoid becoming victims of government-approved theft.

Avoid long chats if you’re pulled over. Answer questions politely and concisely, then persistently ask if you are free to go.

Don’t leave litter on the vehicle floor, especially energy drink cans.

Don’t use air or breath fresheners; they could be interpreted as an attempt to mask the smell of drugs.

Don’t be too talkative. Don’t be too quiet. Try not to wear expensive designer clothes. Don’t have tinted windows.

And for heaven’s sake, don’t consent to a search if you are carrying a big roll of legitimate cash.

This is what it takes to avoid the sort of police scrutiny that might result in you losing any cash you have on hand. Good luck with that, especially the “not being too talkative or too quiet” part. Being “not from around here” makes visiting Canadians (and other foreign visitors) the best kind of victim: the one who won’t fight because it’s prohibitively expensive to do so — or even impossible, depending on visa limitations.

It’s the most perverted of incentives. Those seizing the money and assets directly benefit from them — about as perverse as you can get without spending several hours at 4chan’s /b/ [link deliberately not included].

One prosecutor used seized cash to defend herself against a lawsuit brought by people whose cash she seized.

Nice work, drug and terror warriors. America is swiftly becoming the First World’s Mos Eisely. Everything remotely connected with drug enforcement or counterterrorism carries with it the stench of corruption and abuse. Canadians will now drive through the US like suburbanites who have found themselves on the “wrong” side of town: windows up, doors locked, eyes fixed dead ahead and at a speed just fast enough to deter interaction but not fast enough to draw undue attention.

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Comments on “Canadian News Outlet Warns Canadians That US Law Enforcement Officers Will Pull Them Over And Seize Their Cash”

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109 Comments
JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Oh puleeeze

More like the new Germany…

The travel guides warn you not to speed in Germany and to be prepared to pay hefty cash fines if you do lest you get your car seized.

…and that is supposed to be considered normal and acceptable there. It’s not a controversy like it would be here with.

Then there are French speed cameras. It turns out that they are diligent and efficient when it comes to those.

The Canadians need to get out more.

Perhaps their utopia has left them with less of a travel budget.

Socrates says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Autobahn

Most of the motorways (autobahn) in Germany does not even have a speed limit. So speeds up to about 300 km/h is not uncommon. About 15% drives faster than 170 km/h in the summer in advisory speed limit areas, faster on dry tarmac and slower in rain, bad weather and dense traffic.

Some of the autobahn have rain speed limits and most have special electronic variable message signs, as well as equipment to detect and automatically warn of fog, rain, and ice.

The left lanes usually have a minimum speed of 110 km/h.

There is few accidents and fatalities, 1.98 deaths at the autobahn and 3.62 deaths at motorways in USA, for each billion km traveled according to IRTAD.

Michel says:

Re: Re: Oh puleeeze

What? As a German citizen, I call BS. They don’t sieze your car for nothing. The only way I know of is if you park in a no parking area. But you can easily get it back then. And for Traffic fees: they are very high if you tailgate or go 60 km/h over the limit but it’s not like we have some kind of Auto-Gestapo.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Dear Baron von Robber,

We take issue with you referring to the US as the new Mexico. Granted, you have that whole section that is actually called “New Mexico”, but the US stormtrooper tactics and clear disregard for the rights of their citizens is most certainly not what Mexico is all about.

Sure, in Mexico you stand a pretty good chance of being kidnapped and killed by members of a drug cartel, if you are imprisoned for breaking a minor law you could find yourself stuck in a small cell for the remainder of your life, and many of our tourist spots are full of pick-pockets and petty thieves.

However, our law enforcement officers will ALWAYS arrest or kill you when taking your cash. For us, it is not just a monetary pursuit, our officers will always make an effort to make any cash seizures at least have a hint of legitimacy by charging you with violation of some law you have never heard of and then make you sign a confession in a foreign language to get some clean water (well, sort-of clean).

Please do not let our good name be tarnished.

– Mexico

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Travelers Checks

The cops can’t cash them. Not without your signature.

But don’t try to cash them yourselves at either B of A or Wells Fargo, at least not in California. They both tried to charge me an extra 1% for the privilege of doing business with them for something already paid for. I did not have any problems with them on the rest of my trip from the east coast to the left.

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Re: Re: Travelers Checks

This is supposed to be illegal but the banks have managed to find a loophole around it and most legal regulations that apply to banks.

That’s what the “NA” business means.

Those idiots will crash the entire system if they aren’t careful. Rampant corruption is ultimately bad for business.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Travelers Checks

As long as the ones at the top make it out unscathed(like they did the last time they crashed the economy), they really don’t seem to care.

‘If it doesn’t affect me personally, why should I care?’ is the mindset of a sociopath, and unfortunately, seems to be required for anyone in charge of a large enough company, with few exceptions.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Travelers Checks

So “NA” must mean “not applicable?”

The really hilarious thing is that when I went to the BofA brnach (the exact one where the check was drawn on), they explained that the fee will be waived if I open an account. Apparently, they think this is a good way to expand the number of people who have accounts there.

Instead, they’ve given me strong incentive to refuse checks drawn from BofA accounts.

Mike Brown (profile) says:

Re: Travelers Checks

No one should be carrying around a bunch of cash. Just leave your money in your bank. If you must have cash, your ATM card will work in any ATM. The ATM fee of $3 or so is small, plus your Canadian bank will use a standardized exchange rate–not one that’s been set higher than average by the local bank to rip off tourists.

Adam says:

Re: Re: Travelers Checks

“No one should be carrying around a bunch of cash.”

First they made it illegal for us to own gold. They insisted that we had to swap it for paper money. Now you’re saying that it’s illegal for us to carry the paper money too? Why shouldn’t I be carrying around a bunch of cash? Why is that a problem? Oh, I know, because it’s not traceable.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Travelers Checks

“No one should be carrying around a bunch of cash.”

Why not? Did they make this illegal now?

“If you must have cash, your ATM card will work in any ATM. The ATM fee of $3 or so is small”

There are lots of reasons one would want to reduce or eliminate the use of ATMs. BTW, an ATM fee of $3 is not small. It’s large.

People should deal with money in whatever way is most comfortable for them. If that’s a big wad of cash, more power to them. There is nothing illegal or even suspicious about it, and there should be no risk of being robbed by law enforcement of all people.

The fault here is the cops, not their victims.

That Canadian guy says:

One more reason not to vacation in 'Murica

When I was a kid my family used to vacation in the US every year, but then you guys got scary, sad to say it’s been nearly a decade since I took a vacation in the US and unless thing change a lot I can’t see my self vacationing there in the future. It’s a shame really, you guys used to have a really nice country, but at some point between Getmo and Ferguson you became one of those scary countries south of the border.

Steevo (profile) says:

Re: One more reason not to vacation in 'Murica

Once I read “you guys” the flag went up. The Canadian, stereotyping. It’s Gitmo, and along with Ferguson mean nothing when understanding, us guys. The overwhelming percentage of Americans have nothing to do with this perverse abusive incentive. You want another opportunity for self-esteem, look in the mirror and grow up.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: One more reason not to vacation in 'Murica

The overwhelming percentage of Americans have nothing to do with this perverse abusive incentive.

And yet visitors still have to deal with American police, TSA, etc. if they want to come here. Small comfort that most Americans are perfectly nice after the police rob you of your money.

Marvin says:

Re: One more reason not to vacation in 'Murica

Which state contains Getmo? Perhaps you meant Gitmo which is short for Guantanamo Cuba, not the good ole US of A. Maybe you’d be willing to house those terrorists? And Ferguson is a mathematical anomaly. Check the odds on those events. Enjoy summer in Canada, what a week!!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Is it a joke?

Actually you get better service in 3rd world countries because they actually state that you have “committed” a crime or a misdemeanor or whatever. Asset forfeiture has no such thing attached to it. All a pig needs to do to steal your shit is to say there’s something suspicious about you.

Their word.

That’s all it takes.

Not even the police of the 1980’s and 1990’s Russia were this bad.

anonymous canadian says:

Re: Looking for the states that have banned the practice I found this: http://freedominthe50states.org/asset-forfeiture

I, too, tried to find which of the states reportedly do not participate. Didn’t find anything like you did. Thanks for posting. Am I reading the map correctly: the orange coloured states like California and Oregon have the highest rates of seizure?

It just gets better and better, doesn’t it? In the olden days, I used to fly to the US a couple of times a year. Have done so only once since the TSA was instituted and won’t again if I can possible avoid it. So far, so good.

And now driving has become govt creepy? This old lady weeps.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Looking for the states that have banned the practice I found this: http://freedominthe50states.org/asset-forfeiture

No, I think the five orange ones are the ones that banned it.

“This category reflects the extent to which a state’s asset forfeiture rules encourage revenue-sharing with the Dept of Justice.” The orange ones encourage such revenue sharing the most. It’s apparently only an analysis of the rules, not data about how much it happens per capita or anything like that.

NovaScotian (profile) says:

Traveling in the USA with cash.

For 15 years now, my wife and I have avoided cross-border credit card fees and the exchange rate agio by using the income from two small US retirement funds from 15 years I taught at university there long ago. Instead of converting it, I saved it for fall and spring two-week long trips to the the US during which we’d pay for everything in cash; motels, meals, all purchases. Nothing went on a credit card. Traveler’s Checks are a PITA.

This fall instead of Christmas shopping for a bunch of grandkids, eating, leaf watching, etc. in New England, we’re going to Montreal. I certainly don’t want to risk losing the amount we usually spent but the US economy certainly has from now on. We’re off to Montreal instead this fall.

Binko Barnes (profile) says:

The really amazing thing about Asset Forfeiture is that it is not instantly struck down by the courts. It shows how monolithic the power structure is when it comes to protecting it’s power and privilege, even when blatantly unconstitutional.

And what about all the cops that take part in what is essentially theft under cover of authority? Once again demonstrates how pliable police morality becomes when something benefits them and their gang.

bobby b says:

Great.

In four hours I leave MN in my MN-licensed car to drive to SanFran via Colorado.

I get to run the forfeiture gauntlet all across the country, plus I get to leave Colorado in a non-Colorado car, meaning the next state will be pulling me over to search for pot.

X-country roadtrips weren’t this threatening back when me and my college buds really WERE bringing in the goodies, as they say.

John Cressman (profile) says:

Every now and then...

Every now and then you hear about someone going nuts and opening firing on government employees… then, every now and then you hear stories like this and say “Oh, that’s why!”

I hate to say it, but at some point, this type of illegal, immoral and unjust seizure will be met with… in the words of Sarah Palin… “a 2nd amendment solution”.

People can only be pushed so far and at some point, some of them are going to snap.

At that point, I have very little sympathy for criminals masquerading as “civil servants”. This is the type of thing you read about happening in a 2nd or 3rd world country rife with corruption… it’s not something you should be reading about a 1st world country.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

1. I do not consent to any searches

From https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20131105/05401425129/cops-subject-man-to-rectal-searches-enemas-colonoscopy-futile-effort-to-find-drugs-they-swear-he-was-hiding.shtml

1. Eckert’s abdominal area was x-rayed; no narcotics were found.
2. Doctors then performed an exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
3. Doctors performed a second exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
4. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
5. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a second time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
6. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a third time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
7. Doctors then x-rayed Eckert again; no narcotics were found.
8. Doctors prepared Eckert for surgery, sedated him, and then performed a colonoscopy where a scope with a camera was inserted into Eckert’s anus, rectum, colon, and large intestines. No narcotics were found.
At no time did Eckert give his consent to these searches.

At no time did Eckert give his consent to these searches.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

At no time did Eckert give his consent to these searches.

Not consenting provides no guarantees, but consenting to a search guarantees that any evidence found will be admissible, and you will not be able to get any relief for an unlawful search.

Just remember that the police are not going to say “You have the right to refuse permission to search your vehicle. May I have permission?” They’ll say something more like “I’m going to search your vehicle now, OK?” At which time you say “I do not consent to any search.” Then they ask “Why not?” and you say “Am I free to go?”

bobby b says:

A). Nasch, I HAVE TO go through Colorado. Since I’m out this way, I simply must make my first-ever legal pot purchase. It’s like . . . a quest.

B). The asset forfeiture laws were originally written to take care of the (rare) situation where the known drug bigwig gets tossed and has no drugs, nothing incriminating, just megawads of cash (which obviously came from his drug business.)

The cops would be just about frothing at the mouth – they KNEW the guy was dirty, they KNEW the cash was drug sales proceeds, but all they could do was hand it back to him and listen to him laugh. At them. Cops HATE that.

So they designed this abortion of a law, and immediately misused it and became suddenly, happily, rich.

What they choose to ignore is that this law was one of the last straws that caused many of us – most? – to consider the cops to be just another thieving gang preying upon the lawful.

Tx_cop says:

Let’s think logically here… 2.5billion sized from 62,000 people… That’s an average of just over $40k each… Asset forfeiture cases aren’t just taking money from people as it’s apparently thought. Those cases involve cash earned from drugs or other illegal activities. As a cop here in Texas, sure, having a lot of cash may make an individual look suspicious, but I’m certainly not going to try to sieze it just because they have it.

Tx_cop says:

My point is that no cop I know of, or any law is going after people that just happen to have cash on them. And taking cash from people but not charging them with a criminal offense? That’s just flat out theft. No if ands or buts about it. Any cop who takes money from anyone in that manner should be fired and charged as a criminal because they trying to play on the wrong side of the thin blue line that good, honorable, trustworthy officers work so hard to keep intact

A says:

This story got much, much worse for me. I was driving with my family down into the Boston area for my son’s hockey tournament. We where pulled over by a New England state trooper (with no infractions,) The trooper, about 28, and waaay to intense for it to be natural, WINK, called in for backup saying only that he had “pulled over Canadian plates.” Soon 2 more cars arrived, female detectives, and they took me to the side of the road. Now, I do finesse myself a lady’s man, but it was clear that these ladies where looking to “seize” my “assets.” Before I knew it where where locked in a fiery embrace, losing ourselves to the moment while thethird officer, the stufly, intense boy “shook down” my wife and released his pepper spray all over my wife’s billy club. Yes, my wife is a transexual. In short, if you “do the crime” on Uncle Sam’s turf, you better be ready “do the time, or at least, 2 willing lasses in blue!!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Usual question about cops and civil forfiture

If they act like highway robbers how long until they start getting treated accordingly?

Of course if that happens they’ll whine incessantly about it like they do about anything to give the teeniest bit of criticism or extra accountability. They’re even worse than farmers which is quite an accomplishment.

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