Highway Robbery: Tennessee Police Are Seizing Cash From Out-of-State Visitors In Policy Called “Policing For Profit”

It appears that anyone visiting Tennessee this summer should leave their cash at home. A New Jersey man has encountered an outrageous policy among police in that state to seize large amounts of cash from out-of-state visitors without any probable cause of a crime. The practice brings a new meaning to “highway robbery.”

A professional insurance adjuster, George Reby, was traveling through the state from New Jersey when he was stopped and asked by Officer Larry Bates if he had large amounts of cash. He said that he did — $22,000. The officer demanded the money and said that he was confiscating the money on suspicion of drug activity. That is it. The mere fact that he was carrying a large amount of cash was enough under this policy to seize the money. The police know that many out-of-state travelers never come back for the cash and they are then allowed to keep the money for their own uses at the department.

Even though Reby explained why he had the money, it did not matter. The fact that he completely cooperated in allowing a full search of his car did not matter. What mattered was that the police wanted the cash.

Bates admitted that he did not arrest Reby because he did not commit any crime. However, he reminded drivers that “[t]he safest place to put your money if it’s legitimate is in a bank account. He stated he had two. I would put it in a bank account. It draws interest and it’s safer.”

Bates said that he was right to take the money because “he couldn’t prove it was legitimate.” That of course flips the normal presumption under criminal law, but it is an example of how police powers have increased in this country.

To made matters even more authoritarian, Tennessee law allows a judge to sign off on the seizure in an ex parte proceeding. Reby was never informed of the hearing. Only the officer’s account is considered at such hearings.

While Reby insists that he offered to show proof on his computer as to the source of the money, the offer was not reported to the court. Bates simply stated “common people do not carry this much U.S. currency.” He noted later that “a thousand-dollar bundle could approximately buy two ounces of cocaine.” Of course, ten dollars can buy drugs as well as a thousand dollars can buy a jet ski.

Bates also said Reby had a criminal history despite the fact that it was 20 years ago and did not result in any conviction. He also said the money was hidden in the car despite the fact the Reby consented to the search and told the officer about the bag (and gave the bag to the officer).

It takes months for travelers to get their money back and many give up. In Reby’s case, he was forced to travel back to Tennessee to pick up the check and was given no apology for the abusive seizure. Bates will not be disciplined.

The policy in Tennessee is a disgrace, but neither local prosecutors or judges appear motivated to stop the obvious abuse of travelers. Putting aside this case, the seizure of property has become a huge bonanza for prosecutors and police across the country. The threshold showing for such seizure is now so low that they can seize first and ask questions later. It creates a perverse incentive for police officers and their departments when such property and cash ultimately can be claimed by law enforcement. One obvious reform is to stipulate that police and prosecutors cannot benefit from seizures — removing the incentive for broad seizures.

The Tennessee policy makes its recent slogan “Follow Me To Tennessee” sound a bit more menacing. However, they may want to go back to it. The new slogan does not quite fit with its seizure policies targeting out-of-state travelers: “Tennessee- America at its best.”

Source: News Channel 5 as first seen on Reddit.

55 thoughts on “Highway Robbery: Tennessee Police Are Seizing Cash From Out-of-State Visitors In Policy Called “Policing For Profit”

  1. This abuse is nothing new and it’s not limited to Tennessee. It happens in airports and on highways across the country. And it’s obscene. Thank you, War on Drugs. Thanks for nothing.

  2. ‘The police know that many out-of-state travelers never come back for the cash and they are then allowed to keep the money for their own uses at the department.’
    If this is true, and an actual policy in that police force, then CONGRATS TN!!!! for being the actual creative force behind corruption in civic service industry…..this is how crooks are created!

  3. I am aware that this practice has been going on for years. The states I have read about wide-spread misuse of seizure laws in are exactly the benighted blemishes on humanity you would expect to engage in this type of fraud, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. If it is happening elsewhere I have not see stories on it. It has gotten so bad that they have even confiscated vehicles and personal belongings from people without the slightest hint of evidence. The law on seizure needs to change.

  4. The suffering suffers the insufferable from the insufferables.
    Will it become like the bacteria growing in a testtube?
    Will it explode as grows and fills all space.
    Pr will we find an an antibiotic first.

    Liberté, Fraternité, Égalité. The best I know for treatment.

  5. “The suffering suffers the insufferable from the insufferables.” idealist
    oooooh I like this line! I’m gonna use it if you don’t mind????

  6. Maybe the police people in Tenn. never heard about this:

    “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

  7. This has been going on for a long time. Georgia used to be a pure crap shoot as to whether tourists could make it through to Florida without being hit up by the cops. They really go after cars from liberal states like MA.

  8. I am appalled that police in the South could possibley be stealing money from visitors! If the officer’s argument is correct, should they not be doing the same thing to all Tennessee citizens as well?

  9. Forfeiture laws are clearly and completely unconstitutional on their face per the 5th and 14th amendments. How these laws ever got passed, and how they ever stand up in court is beyond me. If I was a DA in TN, Officer Bates would be charged with Robbery. The forfeiture laws are void per Marbury v. Madison.

  10. Excuse me sir, Is that a Rolex. Normal people do not have that watch you must surrender it And the Porsche you are driving…. well that is a big problem

  11. The guy who wrote the following song will receive the Medal of Freedom on the 29th of May in the White House:

    Johnny’s in the basement
    Mixing up the medicine
    I’m on the pavement
    Thinking about the government
    The man in the trench coat
    Badge out, laid off
    Says he’s got a bad cough
    Wants to get it paid off
    Look out kid

    It’s somethin’ you did
    God knows when
    But you’re doin’ it again
    You better duck down the alley way
    Lookin’ for a new friend
    The man in the coon-skin cap
    By the big pen
    Wants eleven dollar bills
    You only got ten

    Maggie comes fleet foot
    Face full of black soot
    Talkin’ that the heat put
    Plants in the bed but
    The phone’s tapped anyway

    Maggie says that many say
    They must bust in early May
    Orders from the D.A.
    Look out kid
    Don’t matter what you did
    Walk on your tiptoes
    Don’t try “No-Doz”
    Better stay away from those
    That carry around a fire hose
    Keep a clean nose
    Watch the plain clothes
    You don’t need a weatherman
    To know which way the wind blows

    Get sick, get well
    Hang around a ink well
    Ring bell, hard to tell
    If anything is goin’ to sell
    Try hard, get barred
    Get back, write braille
    Get jailed, jump bail
    Join the army, if you fail
    Look out kid
    You’re gonna get hit
    But users, cheaters
    Six-time losers
    Hang around the theaters
    Girl by the whirlpool
    Lookin’ for a new fool
    Don’t follow leaders
    Watch the parkin’ meters

    Ah get born, keep warm
    Short pants, romance, learn to dance
    Get dressed, get blessed
    Try to be a success
    Please her, please him, buy gifts
    Don’t steal, don’t lift
    Twenty years of schoolin’
    And they put you on the day shift

    Look out kid
    They keep it all hid
    Better jump down a manhole
    Light yourself a candle
    Don’t wear sandals
    Try to avoid the scandals
    Don’t wanna be a bum
    You better chew gum
    The pump don’t work
    ’Cause the vandals took the handles

  12. Woosty said.
    ““The suffering suffers the insufferable from the insufferables.” idealist
    oooooh I like this line! I’m gonna use it if you don’t mind????
    OK, just as long as you don’t hang it up and throw darts at it. I don’t plan to get it tattooed.

  13. I hate banks and I don’t have a bank account. I worry about stupid things like this every week when I cash my paycheck. What if some dumbass cop pulls me over and decides that carrying around 800+ dollars in cash is “suspicious”? What do I do then? What am I to do on vacation this summer when I plan on carrying more? Luckily, I’m not driving through TN!

  14. You may be interested in this two-part documentary. It details the sort of abuse mentioned here. It has a Dutch intro but after ca. 15 sec. it continues in English. Highly recomended for those unaware of the side-effects of the ever expanding War on Drugs nonsense. BTW, eventhough it is nearly a decade old it still remains relevant.
    War on Drugs part I: http://tegenlicht.vpro.nl/afleveringen/2002-2003/de-war-on-drugs-deel-i.html
    War on Drugs part II: http://tegenlicht.vpro.nl/afleveringen/2002-2003/de-war-on-drugs-deel-ii.html

    In short, the police is paid by what they seize. Hence, there is a strong incentive to do what is discussed above, seize money, ask questions later.

  15. Given the role models they have in politicians, media, and corporate elite, it’s surprising more states haven’t implemented this policy.

  16. Here’s a law I cannot believe is legal: in many states, you can be taxed for possession of marijuana, even if you are never convicted of possession. Your state income tax refund is seized and your bank accounts and wages can be garnished to pay this tax on an item you never legally possessed. I am not a lawyer, but this one just makes no sense to me.

  17. I’ve got to stop reading this stuff. My rage gauge is way off the charts.

    BTW, officer Bates is a liar, an imbecile, or both, if he thinks banks pay interest.

  18. Way back, when all magazines were on paper, Mother Jones did an article on the way seizures of money were being handled in Florida- Miami airport, by their research, was the number one place not to be a person of color with more than $20.00 in your pockets. It just got stolen by the cops and receipts were seldom provided. This isn’t really new and Florida, has sucked for decades. Tennessee is late to the game.

  19. There are a gazillion lawyers out there — oversupply in every state. Lots of them did not quite like Constitutional Law 101 and do not know where the books are in the library which contain the Civil Rights Act or the thousands of annotations of reported cases involving that law. This guy needs a lawyer in Tennessee conversant with the Civil Rights Act. They seized your money without due process of law in violation of your rights under the 4th, 5th and 14th Amendments. The Act gives you a right to a jury trial to determine if you are entitled to a judgment for actual damage which includes loss of the money, loss of use of the money during the time they kept it, punitive damages against cornpone and attorney fees. The fees in something like this could add up to $50,000.00 for cornpone and his municipality to consider.

  20. Wonder why the thin blue line is getting thicker? They have become a criminal enterprise, the cops against the civilians.

    They can steal from us and the judicial system supports them.
    New Motto:
    ‘To Serve and Protect Ourselves’

  21. How did we get so intimadated? Cop asks “Do you have a lot of cash on ya?” You just lie and say,” no.” Cop asks”May I search your vehicle?” You just say ‘No, not without a warrant.” all very politely but definately. Cop goes further, he risks an illegal search charge.

  22. From “America the Dutiful”:

    In the Land of the Fleeced and the Home of the Slave
    Where the cowed and the buffaloed moan
    Where seldom we find an inquisitive mind
    And the people pay up with a groan

    While at home on the range when the firing begins
    Not a word of encouragement sounds
    The temp workers leave for their other day jobs
    And the cops and the guards make their rounds

    Michael Murry, The Misfortune Teller, Copyright 2005

    A Hispanic co-worker of mine once explained to me the difference between Mexico and the United States. “In Mexico,” he said, “the cops rob you. In America, they rob you and give you a receipt.”

    It looks like they’ve stopped bothering with the receipt, at least in Tennessee.

  23. DonS,

    You beat me to it with the outraged comment about banks claiming to pay interest.

    My credit union, on the other hand, does pay interest (and charges no fees for checking). Last year I received 0.01% (yes, fellow Crimestoppers, one one-hudredth of one percent) on my money market account. Thank you Ben Bernanke of the Federal Preserve

  24. I get so mad about this “savings account interest” business that I can’t even do the arithmetic right. Let us just say that with $45,000 in a money market account, a yearly interest return of $45 would come out to something like a 0.001 rate of return. A lot going out, but not much returning.

    Let’s see ,,, if “percent” means “divided by one hundred,” then

    0.1 = ten percent (0.1/100 = 10)
    0.01 = one percent (0.01/100 = 1)
    0.001 = one tenth of one percent (0.001/100 = 0.1)

    Shit. I don’t know if I did that right, either, but perhaps I should have said that I received one tenth of one percent on my savings. I suppose the correction should make me feel better about Ben Bernanke but it doesn’t.

  25. “Cop goes further, he risks an illegal search charge.” — fmbjo

    Then the Congress, the President, and the Courts go even further and declare the illegal search “legal” today with “today” meaning “back then,” as well. Works every time in the United States of Amnesia.

    “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” — Big Brother

  26. I wonder what will happen to Sterling Hall bomber Karl Armstrong, who was just busted in Chicago with $800,000 in cash, that was seized.

  27. This is what I would do. Not that it would work with you, nor is this legal advice, but I will flap my jaws nonetheless

    1) If I get pulled over for a violation, I only answer questions and be brief. If you make extraneous conversation they can start looking for items to jack you up on. Don’t be curt, but just answer the questions.

    2) If I would get asked if I have large sums of money I’d just say “No.” (if you are worred about that just remember, it is subjective on your part. I personally don’t consider an amount of money “large” until it reaches 100,000)

    3) If I was to be asked “Mind if we search your car?” my reply would be “I don’t have anything in there you would find interesting.” If they press this issue I would say “I really don’t want to have anybody looking through personal affairs and I am busy and need to get going. Am I free to leave?” If they say they will get a search warrant unless I consent, I will call their bluff and continue to decline the search request. I won’t let them coerce me into giving consent.

    The truth is once you hand it over to them, they will make it difficult for you to get it back. I would forestall this and not hand it over.

  28. Seriously??? This is obsurd. This one of many reasons why the “war on drugs” will never end. They want to keep the cash cow rolling. Terrible! I know lots of people who prefer to keep their cash on them especially if they are purchasing something big. “America, the corrupt”

  29. As soon as you begin to mix criminal and civil law, and there’s money involved, you have the worst corruption (as well as the most intractable form of corruption) imaginable.

    You can take money and at the time, make it impossible for the person to defend (because you use suspicion of criminal conduct to limit their possible objection) and then the taking has been done. Then the person needs to expend big sums of money and take time to undo what has been done, but although the appeal of criminal convictions is free and undeniable, the appeal of civil actions is extremely expensive and in some cases almost impossible. So there you have inserted another layer of difficulty into the victim’s struggle against the taking — which is still being camouflaged as a “quasi-criminal” issue.

    So just mark somebody, rip them off with the threat of criminal prosecution right behind your theft, and you have them at a complete disadvantage instantly. As Darren Smith points out, there may be legal ways to make it a little more difficult for them to effectuate the whole theft, but think of this scenario:

    The cops are presented with Darren Smith’s traveler doing as he advised.
    They tell the guy to step out of the car.
    He does.
    They assault him and he tries to defend and gets banged up.
    They charge him with resisting arrest and assaulting an officer.
    They jail him and rough him up a little more until he gives them a confession in return for them dropping the charge down to a misdemeanor on the spot.
    They arrange it that his money just covers the fine, and he’s free to go.

    Should he hire a lawyer and try to come back at them, he will not be believed.

    I had a wacko judge pull a mixed criminal civil trial on me in 1987 and he and his bunch of thugs are still stealing $315/month from me 35 years later. The Court of Appeals of Virginia wouldn’t review the thing properly because they said I only filed a civil appeal (there only was a civil order) so they wouldn’t consider the “criminal part” of the trial because a criminal appeal is filed with a different piece of paper and I filed the piece of paper called “appeal” instead of “writ of error.” The three mental giants who did this for the Virginia Court of Appeals — to protect the buffoon judge who did it to start with — were never reversed, corrected, or called down for their bit of “creative constitutional law.”

    This kind of stuff is just part of the continuum of Americans losing all their rights. Perhaps I lost mine earlier than many other Americans — perhaps not, considering that African Americans had not even gained them before they started losing them once again (about ten minutes after emancipation, in my view), but it’s just a continuum. The mixture of criminal and civil is simply a way to use the greater force without having the greater degree of accountability. Get ready, folks.

    Oh, by the way, the money’s not safe in the bank either.

  30. From what I understand if you refuse a search they usually detain you anyway until they get a police dog to do a walk a round who will “alert” to possible drugs, so then you get your money confiscated and your car impounded and have to deal with the headaches of getting your car back.
    I had heard that cops have something like a radar gun that detects money that they flash over you. I don’t know if this is true but I have to wonder how they know to pull over the people who actually have large amounts of cash on them. u

  31. To Darren Smith and others who say what you would do if…put yourselves in the shoes of someone who does not have the resources to pursue a case in court. Say the police pull you over and ask to search your car. You say no. They keep you there until the drug dog shows up and, sure enough, signals there are drugs in the car. You will be getting arrested, you will be going to jail, and if you have a job you will almost certainly be losing it. All because you told the police they could not search your car. Or you can let them steal the money you have on you.

  32. Eric, or they can just plant some drugs on you so they can put you away for a good long time.

    To Serve and Protect Themselves

  33. Shano, Mark, Malisha, Eric. You are correct that it does still happen badly this way in various parts of the country. I don’t like it but yes it happens and those who cannot afford a good defense are downtrodden. I don’t like it any more than you do, in fact it bothers me worse because it harms our reputation and makes it more difficult to do what we are here for.

    Here is a youtube video link that says it all. What bad cops look like and how good cops, when doing their jobs Honorably, look even better.

    (I wish I could figure out how to embed videos here. Any one have a suggestion)


  34. The perverse economic incentives for the police, towns and counties here, are not that different than those for private prisons, in the way dysfunction and corruption almost invariably insinuate themselves into the equation.

  35. Darren, thanks for the video. Notice how the cops backed down when their demands were respectful refused? Or it was obvious that the guys had a network behind them? The “nice” cop got more info out of them than the “bully” cops. Dare I suggest a comparison between respectful interrogation and torture?

  36. @ Darren Smith: You said: “Shano, Mark, Malisha, Eric. You are correct that it does still happen badly this way in various parts of the country. I don’t like it but yes it happens and those who cannot afford a good defense are downtrodden. I don’t like it any more than you do, in fact it bothers me worse because it harms our reputation and makes it more difficult to do what we are here for.”

    Sir, you have a whole world of my respect right now for this, what you said right here. This is the way I feel about Jews who abuse people and scream “anti-semitism” when they’re called down for it, about women who make false allegations of sexual assault against men who do not deserve it, and on and on. When you have something more at stake than your own little desires of the moment, and especially if you are police, or a member of a minority, or a public official, or someone representing a group somehow, you have a trust to be protected, not just your own welfare and life to be protected, and when you are protecting that trust, you have to act a little better than otherwise. I have had contact with good cops (mostly when I was a presenter for the Public Health Service) and a few bad cops (mostly when I was doing an unofficial investigation of a trumped up case in Harford County, Maryland) and I can conclude this: There is almost nothing as good and as valuable to society as a good cop; there is almost nothing as bad and as destructive to society as a bad one.

    Just my opinion. Small sample, of course. (Maybe 300 good ones and 25 bad ones)

  37. I know of a former leo that was delegated the duty for seizures, quit the department after two years of what he was quoted as saying stealing hard working people’s money…… One scenario that was described is that the department would wait for people to cash the pay check, they approached that person and offered to sell them a few J’s…. Then another officer would stop them, search them find the drugs and the cash was forfeited as proceeds of a drug transaction…..

  38. They confiscated from me in North Carolina, in my own small town, 10,949.00 from my home, under the guise that when I reported my wallet stolen, that I had been in a drug area ( I was new to the town and was lost) that I was suspected of trying to buy drugs, the 2 detectives came to my home claiming they need more information, the next thing I know 15 officers surrounded my home with dogs and I was, I felt coerced to allow consent to a search, for drugs ONLY- which they ofcourse found none, but I had just moved and carried the cash, that I have more than ample documentation to prove it legal, tax paid funds that were to be deposited within a local bank-but I never got a chance, they took it and said it was “bundled” like drug money- how can this be legal- who can I turn to- this town is so corrupt, they now follow me around town, almost to the feeling of harrasment and they are going around to my neighbors telling them that I had 10,000 confiscated becaused they belived it to be enough to of course buy drugs, is this the only thing we can buy with cash anymore? Is cash illegal to have and it was in my own home- I feel as though somewhere my 4th amendment has been violated- but who do I turn to? Anyone have any suggestions? I would be greatful, it is monies left to my daughter for her higher education- these are the most sickening stories, I have no faith in the “system” if I ever did- they are more crooked than anyone I have ever met, SWAT member convicted finaly of stealing drugs from evidence locker and selling them, our Probation officer lives with Ashville, NC 2nd largest drug dealer, one of our patrol officers knocked up a 17 year old, never got so much as a slap on the wrist, reason- well she turned 18 by the time the kid is born- WHAT? Since when he is 45 she is 17 and anywhere else, anyone else would have been arrested and tagged a sex offender and arrested- AMAZING, how do I fight that??

  39. you have the documents to prove it contact your congressman and yes it is a illegal search they must have probable cause and it violates your right to travel without being harassmed

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