Policing for Profit: Cops Take Thousands in Cash from Innocent Citizens During Traffic Stops

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Police took $160,000 from a man when they pulled him over for a traffic stop, and though it is legal for police to confiscate large sums of cash, critics are calling it a case of "policing for profit."

It happened in December 2011 in Tennessee's Dickson County. Video showed that the Indian-American businessman was pulled over by police, who then took the $160,000 in cash they found in his car.

An officer from the 23rd Judicial District Drug Task Force said the cash could be drug money.

It took the man a year to get it back, and after all of the lawyer costs and fees, he ended up losing $5,000 of it, even though he did not obtain the funds from illegal means.

Critics are angered at the law that allows police to keep large sums of money they find in cars. They say they often target out-of-state drivers, who are often minorities, and take the money even when there is no evidence that it is drug-related.

It might not rub people the wrong way if it didn't take so long for the innocent people to get their money back. 

Once the money is seized by police, federal agencies have 90 days to file a forfeiture action. Then, the owner of the funds has 30 days to file a claim. But the U.S. Attorney's Office has the ability to delay the process for another 90 days to file a formal lawsuit. 

Delays happen throughout the process, which was why the Indian-American businessman didn't receive his money until the next year.

"It does show that the government did not have a very strong case," Darpana Sheth, an attorney, said about his case.

For those with smaller amounts of money, like $5,000 to $10,000, it might not be worth it to try and get it back. Attorneys and court fees often cost more than a few thousand dollars when all is said and done.

Critics also say that it is violating the idea of "innocent until proven guilty," as it seems police automatically assume the money is related to drugs.

A few agencies, like the Southern Poverty Law Center, have won cases for individuals that have difficulty getting their money back. In 2009, they helped a Latino migrant farm worker get back the $20,000 police seized from him. 

Sources: Inquisitr, Prison Planet