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. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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”

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. “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

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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’

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

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

  17. 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.

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