Former Law Enforcement Officer Displays His Ignorance Of The Law In Civil Forfeiture Article

from the ignorance-of-the-law-gets-you-a-sweet-position-on-the-nightly-newscast dept

If you’re going to be touted as an “expert,” the very goddamn least you can do is not make people stupider. May I present to you “Trooper Steve,” the resident “traffic safety expert” for

He comes highly-touted. None other than the Orlando Sentinel called him… well, a “traffic safety expert.” Here’s the headline:

Former FHP Trooper Steve Montiero brings wealth of knowledge as News 6 traffic safety expert

Underneath the video announcing this triumphant hiring is a sentence that makes my head ache terribly:

Montiero gained fame with the Florida Highway Patrol as a Public Information Officer…

It’s really weird that anyone would “gain fame” as a law enforcement officer. Sure, his position was more public-facing than most, but let’s not start building a statue in his honor yet.

Here’s a bit from his bio at ClickOrlando. [Please hold your vomiting until the end of the quote.]

A Central Florida native and decorated combat veteran, Montiero comes to the station following an eight-year assignment with the Florida Highway Patrol. While there, his responsibilities included patrolling Osceola, Orange, Brevard, Lake, Seminole and Volusia counties, along with the Orlando area of the Florida Turnpike. He was later assigned to the Florida Highway Patrol Motorcycle Unit, where he began doing public speaking engagements and found his passion for community involvement.

From that experience, he became the face of FHP in Orlando. Lt. Kim Montes took Steven under her wing and made him assistant Public Affairs Officer.

Over the last several years, he has become known across the Sunshine State as “Trooper Steve.” He’s spent his time doing everything from corporate events to interviews on WKMG, to just hanging out with kids in hopes of spreading the word about safe-decision making in hopes of saving just one life.

Why am I being so harsh on Trooper Steve? Well, it’s a few things. First and foremost, his leap from law enforcement officer to “traffic safety expert” assumes he actually knows how to keep traffic safe. The thing about cops is they are under no obligation to keep the public safe. As the occupation name makes clear, they are there to perform law enforcement, not keep drivers safe. If the two happen to align occasionally, everyone wins. But LEOs have no “duty of care.”

More than that, touting someone as an “expert” tends to lead viewers and readers to believe this person knows what the fuck they’re talking about. But as this recent column by “Trooper Steve” painfully proves, police PR reps make for terrible “experts.”

The question is fairly innocuous: are there any safety tips Trooper “Traffic Safety Expert” Steve could offer travelers roaming around the country with cash in their possession?

Martha, of Champions Gate, asked, “Is there anything I should know when carrying large amounts of cash in the car?

Everything goes off the rails immediately.

Well if you’re up to no good and get stopped by the police and have large amounts of cash on you, you’re going to have something to worry about. Civil asset forfeiture act requires you to show proof of cash when law enforcement is conducting an investigation.

Anything around $5,000 or more you should always have some type of paperwork showing where that money has come from, legally. This is to eliminate the idea that this money was earned or given during criminal activities for which you may be investigated.

First and fucking foremost, there is nothing illegal about cash. Cops presume there is because it puts money directly in the pockets of cops. Civil asset forfeiture tends to benefit the agency performing the seizure, so cops (and troopers) have every incentive to view any amount of cash as suspicious.

Trooper Steve draws the line at $5,000. It’s an arbitrary line. Law enforcement officers will gladly seize amounts less than that because they’re allowed to keep 85% of everything they seize.

But — either due to stupidity or as a favor to his law enforcement buddies — “expert” Trooper Steve shifts the burden of proof to drivers. That is not the law. The law — following some minimal reform efforts — lays the burden exactly where Trooper Steve says it doesn’t.

Cash seizures still won’t need to be preceded by an arrest, though under the new law, forfeiture of any property won’t be made permanent unless law enforcement can prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that it is linked to a crime. That’s the same standard of proof required for a criminal conviction.

So, it is not up to drivers to prove the cash they have on them is legit. It’s up to cops. Of course, this won’t stop a seizure, but at least the law says the burden of proof is on law enforcement. Supposed “expert” Trooper Steve says it isn’t. He is making people stupider. And perhaps conveniently so, because while you can take a cop out of the force, you can’t take the force out of the cop.

Do better with your hiring, ClickOrlando. And clean up after your repurposed public servants when they fuck up. Thanks.

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Comments on “Former Law Enforcement Officer Displays His Ignorance Of The Law In Civil Forfeiture Article”

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Anonymous Coward says:

So, it is not up to drivers to prove the cash they have on them is legit. It’s up to cops. Of course, this won’t stop a seizure, but at least the law says the burden of proof is on law enforcement.

While this may be "true" what will actually happen to your money once seized? And when do we get to start suing for the hassle, inconvenience and other possible consequences of being deprived of our money for months or years based on nothing more than an attempted cash grab by our supposed law enforcers?

Back in high school a lot of kids were in favor of total anarchy, no police. Many probably still are. I always thought they were dumb for thinking chaos would be better than order. But if the current state of affairs is the "order" in question then maybe, just maybe… At least if you can’t trust anyone then you know who you can’t trust (and can maybe do something about it instead of being a victim without recourse).

Sarcastic Fringehead says:

Re: no police

"Back in high school a lot of kids were in favor of total anarchy, no police." Do you think society was "total anarchy" prior to 1829? Police are a modern invention, they don’t date back to the founding of the republic. People were able to bring cases to prosecution before there were police/bobbies.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Not surprising at all actually

Law enforcement is a rather unique field in that the less you know the better off you are, and when it comes to things like robbery-at-badgepoint it matters less what the law says and more what they can get away with, as the risk/reward equation is almost entirely in their favor since even when they get slapped down it’s not like they are on the hook for the fines/penalties.

Whether he honestly believes his own rubbish or he’s just pretending, while it’s disgusting for someone in his position(both current and previous) to say such things there’s absolutely nothing surprising about it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not surprising at all actually

And not just the fact that he is a complete bonehead about his take on asset forfeiture, the way he is touted by those wingnuts just makes me want to VOMIT. This is the America we have fought for? Loved and cherished all these generations? To become this steaming pile of roadkill?? VOMIT.

Ari (profile) says:

Tpr Steve's $5,000 is not arbitrary at all; comes right from DOJ

As the Trooper Steve points out, Florida raised the standard of proof for civil forfeiture at the state level to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. For local Florida law enforcement agencies to thwart their citizens’ will as expressed through the State’s duly enacted laws, local law enforcement must now use the DOJ’s Equitable Sharing Program which we know operates under the more relaxed federal-law, preponderance-of-the-evidence standard. So what are the DOJ thresholds for the Equitable Sharing Program? Let’s check the manual on page 27:

"D.1 Asset-specific net equity thresholds
(3) Cash—minimum amount must be at least $5,000, unless the person from whom the cash was seized either was, or is, being criminally prosecuted by state or federal authorities for criminal activities related to the property, in which case the amount must be at least $1,000."

And now we know why Tpr Steve draws the line at $5,000– essentially a tacit admission that Tpr Steve doesn’t care for the laws of the Great State of Florida and much prefers Equitable Sharing (while touting the protections of the state law in the same breath).

Anonymous Coward says:

Safe holiday for the family? Beware the local cops...

We are now at a point where the chances of being robbed by someone who is NOT LAW ENFORCEMENT, does not bare mentioning in safety advice regarding cash..
So in addition to all of my Social Media passwords at the border for the feds. In order to have a law enforcement friendly trip to Disney World, I need to bring 5 years worth of tax returns so the locals don’t confiscate my cash?

Cdaragorn (profile) says:

Re: Safe holiday for the family? Beware the local cops...

I doubt tax returns would help. All they prove is that you reported your income to the government. They don’t prove where any of that income actually came from.

What he’s asking for is basically an impossible standard to meet. It’s yet another example of why proving a negative is almost never possible and why the US Constitution explicitly declares it unjust and illegal to require that of people.

Unfortunately individuals too easily fall for the temptation to think that it makes perfect sense to ask you to prove you didn’t do something wrong.

Code Monkey (profile) says:

Re: Florida Statute regarding civil forfeiture

For the record, my comment about TechDirt performing their due diligence was NOT, repeat NOT sarcasm. The only reason I read TechDirt is BECAUSE they are so completely thorough in their investigations and report the FACTS. No Fake News here.

Just wanted to clear that up. Big TechDirt Fanboy…… 🙂

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re: Florida Statute regarding civil forfeiture

I still like Economics 101..
Does it really matter, who and what money is used for??
As long as its moving around its working..
when the money is taken out of the Open working condition, Like into Court or just for the cops to buy WHAT they need.. Does that count the FED giving (GIVING) away military goods to protect an area??

Laura Traback says:

Comment on Tim Cushings remarks re Trooper Steve

I’m not sure where to start…. Are you a District Attorney? Or a plaintiff’s attorney? Are you a disgruntled ex-cop, or reporter? What is coming out of your neck to throw up a bunch of minutia on a morning show that is meant, in part to entertain? Trooper Steve is not giving legal adivce. He is speaking, at best to the letter of the law. In addition, he is talking to the “general population,” Now, I don’t know what your background is, but based on the color and content of you diatribe, you appear to be someone with limited education and just a little information to be dangerous. Whatever issues you have with the law enforcement, I bet you would be the first one to call them if you were rear ended while you’ll calling Dan Newton. Trooper Steve served our country. Did you? You complain a lot for nothing. Really nothing. A trooper talking about traffic and you lose your mind? Why don’t you put your big girl pants on and watch Days of Our Lives or Rachel Ray or Ellen. You obviously have way too much time on your hands and have misplaced anger. Get some therapy brother.

Safedricer says:

I FIND IT HARD TO BELIEVE THAT ANY TROOPER IN That AREA HE PATROLLED IS A "SAFETY EXPERT" DO YOU KNOW WHERE THE MOSTLY DEADLY INTERSTATE IN THE COUNTRY IS??? You guessed it I-4 more people have died on this road than any other road for the last 3 years, safety expert really??? This road passes right thru democrat liberal Orlando. The moat deadly !!! "PATROLMAN OF DEATH ALLEY!!!"

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