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. 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

  2. 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??

  3. 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…..

  4. @ 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)

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. 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)


  8. 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

  9. 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.

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