Asset Forfeiture – How To Steal Americans' Hard Earned Cash With Zero Repercussions

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Mike Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

Almost exactly one year ago today, I published a post which went on to become extremely popular titled: Why You Should Never, Ever Drive Through Tenaha, Texas. If you failed to read it the first time around, I suggest you take look as it provides a good outline of just what is at stake when it comes to this destructive and abusive practice increasingly utilized by police departments across these United States with zero repercussions for the offending officers. In last years article I noted that:

In a nutshell, civil forfeiture is the practice of confiscating items from people, ranging from cash, cars, even homes based on no criminal conviction or charges, merely suspicion.


This practice first became widespread for use against pirates, as a way to take possession of contraband goods despite the fact that the ships’ owners in many cases were located thousands of miles away and couldn’t easily be prosecuted. As is often the case, what starts out reasonable becomes a gigantic organized crime ring of criminality, particularly in a society where the rule of law no longer exists for the “elite,” yet anything goes when it comes to pillaging the average citizen.


One of the major reasons these programs have become so abused is that the police departments themselves are able to keep much of the confiscated money. So they actually have a perverse incentive to steal. As might be expected, a program that is often touted as being effective against going after major drug kingpins, actually targets the poor and disenfranchised more than anything else.

While this epidemic of law enforcement theft is problematic throughout the country (see these egregious examples from Tennessee and Michigan), it appears Texas has a particularly keen love affair with the practice. Not only did last year’s story take place in Texas, today’s highlighted episode also takes place in the Lone Star State. This time in a town of 150 people called Estelline, which earns more than 89% of its gross revenues from traffic fines and forfeitures. In other words, from theft. 

Here’s a little background on this particular story. From the Armarillo Globe News:

The city of Estelline is reviewing its police procedures after Hall County authorities reached a $77,500 legal settlement with an Azle woman who alleged officers illegally seized more than $29,000 from her pickup and kept $1,400 of her cash.


Fry, who was parked just past a speed limit sign in the tiny Hall County town, stopped Dutton that November evening for traveling 61 mph in a 50-mph traffic zone. Fry, the city’s lone police officer, asked to search Dutton’s pickup, but she refused. The officer then contacted Jolly, who drove “Kilo,” a drug sniffing canine, to Estelline about 30 minutes later, according to court records and deposition testimony.

So the cops set up a speed trap and then use it as an excuse to illegally confiscate citizens’ property. Kill two revenue birds with one stone.

Fry told Jolly he thought he smelled raw marijuana in the pickup and that he thought Dutton was acting nervously. The drug dog “hit” on the vehicle and the officers found more than $29,000 inside Dutton’s purse, still bundled in bank currency wrapping. Dutton told officers she didn’t do drugs and denied having any marijuana in her truck. She told officers the cash came from a recent property sale, and no drugs were found during the search.


During the stop, the Memphis police chief reportedly contacted Dutton’s two sisters, who confirmed her account that the money was received from a recent real estate transaction. Jolly, according to court records, then called an experienced local criminal investigator, who advised that officers did not have enough evidence to justify Dutton’s arrest. After consulting with Jolly, Fry arrested Dutton, who was held overnight and bonded out the next day.


“The city of Memphis claims they destroyed their copy of that recorded interrogation. The city of Estelline says they didn’t make any such video or audio recording of Dutton’s roadside interrogations; only Memphis did,” court records show.


In a deposition, Estelline City Manager Richard Ferguson said the city, which has about 150 residents, had no written drug dog policy, no written arrest policy and no established forfeiture policy. The city also maintained no written records of past searches or seizures, yet traffic fines and forfeitures made up more than 89 percent of its gross revenues in fiscal year 2012.


“We vigorously defended the lawsuit and believe that both Chief Jolly and former Officer Fry as well as both of the cities did nothing to violate Ms. Dutton’s constitutional rights, but recognizing the uncertainties of continuing with litigation, all the parties agreed that a settlement was in their best interest,” Reno said. “The city of Estelline City Council is reviewing their current policies and procedures and exploring whether to adopt a new policy and procedure manual with respect to the operation of the police department.”

“I feel that I was roped, corralled and branded and put out to pasture as a felon,” she said.

There is so much wrong here I almost don’t know where to begin. This one case highlights so many of the destructive practices happening in the U.S. today, it is as if this tiny Texas town serves as a microcosm for so much that is wrong with America. Let’s start with the drug dog.

Americans are increasingly becoming familiar with their Constitutional rights, particularly the 4th Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure. Cops don’t like this one bit. Whereas in the recent past most Americans might simply allow a law enforcement officer to search his or her car upon request, many more citizens are likely refusing such intrusions. This is where drug dogs come in to provide “probable cause.” The problem here is that many drug dogs are signaling a “drug  hit” when there are no drugs present. This provides a convenient excuse for any officer to search any car at any time.

A great example of this practice was demonstrated in the July 4th video of a police stop in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, which has over 5 million views on YouTube. Once it became clear to the officer that the citizen who was pulled over knew his rights, the cop brought out a police dog that signaled drugs as an excuse to search the vehicle. No drugs were found. So either something is wrong with the dog, or the whole practice is a bullshit excuse for fascism. You know where I stand.

If you think that example is just a one-off, think again. One of the most horrific instances of non-leathal police abuse last year was the story of David Eckert, the New Mexico man for whom a routine traffic stop turned into a nightmare of torture, including multiple involuntary anal probes. The police dog that “sniffed drugs” and kicked off the entire episode wasn’t even certified to sniff for drugs in the state of New Mexico at the time. His certification expired two years earlier, but that didn’t stop local police from using it to harass and torture state residents.

The second major problem is officialdoms’ chronic “destruction of evidence” once it gets caught behaving criminally. Nothing epitomizes this more than the ridiculous destruction of hard drives pertaining to the ongoing IRS scandal. In a similar fashion, the city of Memphis in the above story “claims they destroyed their copy of that recorded interrogation.” How convenient. I’m sure the “dog ate my homework” excuse doesn’t work too well for the plebs when the IRS comes after you. Once again, the “elite” and their henchmen (like cops) can get away with anything, while the citizenry is increasingly “guilty until proven innocent.” Even when they are proven innocent, the guilty parties in officialdom, Wall Street, or corporate America are never, ever held to account with prison sentences, which would serve as the only real deterrent to serious white-collar crimes.

This brings us to the third point. Settlements. Settlements are what people in power are increasingly subject to once their criminality has been exposed. The absolute worst case scenario is a settlement, which does nothing to deter bad behavior. In fact, as many others have also noted, it actually encourages it. A Wall Street employee at a TBTF firm who knows the worst thing that will happen if he gets caught is his employer will pay a fine, will be incentivized to commit as much fraud as possible. The rewards are a lifestyle worthy of a Medieval king, while the punishment is a slap on the corporate wrist. They will take that trade any day. Unsurprisingly, when it became clear the cops in the above case would lose at trial, they merely “settled.”

Now here’s the worst part about these “settlements.” As you might expect, nothing changes systemically. The bad practices continue undeterred. For example, despite the fact that the city of Estillene has “no written drug dog policy, no written arrest policy and no established forfeiture policy,” the most they have committed to is: “Estelline City Council is reviewing their current policies and procedures and exploring whether to adopt a new policy and procedure manual with respect to the operation of the police department.” So in the face of a gross violation of a resident’s constitutional rights, the local police department’s response is basically “we’ll think about it.”

Finally, there is just the gross incompetence. Although the police department admittedly has no written drug dog, arrest or forfeiture policy, there is a little something called the Constitution of the United States of America, a document with which the police department appears entirely unfamiliar. What about the fact that the police corroborated her story with her sisters at the stop, and were even told by a local criminal investigator that they did not have cause to arrest her, yet they still went ahead and held her overnight.

Most importantly, what if she didn’t have the wherewithal to know her rights in the first place? What if she didn’t fight back? What if she didn’t initiate a lawsuit?

Would we even know? Do we even care?

Full article here.

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Ignatius's picture

Something about "due process", if I recall.

macholatte's picture


Manthong's picture

“How To Steal Americans' Hard Earned Cash”

In my view, property tax does the job quite efficiently, at least what is left over after income tax.

The un-propertied, no income Galtesque lifestyle is looking and getting more attractive with each passing day.

CH1's picture

Cops are liars, thieves and bullies.

The "good ones" get out.

Four chan's picture

i thought this was going to be about the fed diluting our savings by half over the last 5 years.


the system steals silently that which we traded our lives for, that is the evil they do.

Drunk In Church's picture

The American police are out of control.  Thank God for smart phones and youtube.  Bitchez.

Liberal's picture

As a staunch liberal, this post is making me all hot and bothered. What a fantastic way to collect taxes! I think I just jizzed my pants!

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

You are a prized gem here at ZH, Liberal.

pods's picture

There is so much wrong with this.  30 minutes for a "drug dog" to get there?  Fuck that.  Am I being charged?  No?  Well smell you later bacon.  Of course if you stand up for yourself that in and of itself is reason for them to dispose of you with extreme prejudice. 

Jackboots all the way.  They do what they want, and when they lose a case, guess where the $$ comes from?  Insurance that is paid by putting a gun to everyone else's head.

But WTSHTF, watch how fast those uniforms come flying off.


Bangin7GramRocks's picture

"Boy, don't make me get my tank, rocket launcher and attack helicopter! Now empty your pockets, hand over that pretty gold watch and be on your way."

all-priced-in's picture

"But WTSHTF, watch how fast those uniforms come flying off."



Just like the Iraqi army



chumbawamba's picture

Great, you can add retaliation to the already committed list of offenses of false arrest, false imprisonment, assault, battery, and if they take you to jail, kidnapping.  And that's just for starters.  There's also federal and state conspiracy charges.  And in California, we have this real convenient hate crimes legislation.  Convenient if you've been labeled one of these mythical "Sovereign Citizens" that are a danger to every living being on the planet, being that they are able apparently to read and understand constitutional law.

What the government has conveniently done is identified all these "Sovereign Citizens" as a group, and since they seem to think these "Sovereign Citizens" are in facts citizens of some nation, being that they're "citizens", then so be it: the "Sovereign Citizens" are citizens of some nation.  Fine.  California Penal Code §422.6 makes it a hate crime to injure, intimidate, or interfere with a person under force or threat of force based on their nationality, mother fuckers.

Welcome to hell.  You paved your own way to it, bitches.

Oh yes, this is for real.  I'm seeing the District Attorney about it this week.

I am Chumbawamba.

armageddon addahere's picture

More cops are asking for it. More cops deserve it than any other year.

SF beatnik's picture

Time was when this sort of shakedown happened only in Mexico, where it is routine. 

As we become more third world, corruption will rise.

Yeah, what we need is more Mexicanization. 

PT's picture

"If you don't fine the people then we won't have any money and we won't have any resources and YOU won't have a joooooob!!!"

Things fall over when the cops can no longer afford to look after their families.  An earlier sign that things are starting to fall over is when police earn much more than the average yob in the community that supports them.

But govt doesn't realise this because all the mathematicians are unemployed.

Georgia_Boy's picture

I'll still refuse the search. I don't have anything illegal or a lot of cash or gold (bitchez) in the car, so might as well make them go through as much work as possible before finding out they did it for nothing.

swmnguy's picture

You might not have anything in the car.  That doesn't mean they won't "find" something, however.  Better to drive a shitty car, slowly.

COSMOS's picture

If you drop out of the loop why not get a boat and sail around the Pacific or Caribean, wind is free, can even make money by taking on people for charter.

TheReplacement's picture

LOL.  You should get Krugman in on this.  Sneezesheilds for everyone.

gatorboat's picture

"The American police are out of control."

Actually it's fairly normal behavior for a communist nation which America is turning into.

You people have got to stop living in the past. This isn't America anymore.  It's Amerika.  The govt is turning communist amazingly fast now. 

But it's the new communism with suits and ties rather than red uniforms.  We have our super wealthy communist elite just like any other communist country.  We have our ruling "party secretary" just like any other communist country.  We just call it "president".

And it's the new high tech communism.  They don't need govt moles watching and listening to eveybody, NSA does that now with computers.

This govt is implementing every facet of communism.  All new laws are communist right down the line.  No individual rights.  All property is subject to govt taxation and confiscation.  All media is govt propaganda or they're shut down.

Where do we see it the most?  At the police level, where govt interacts with people the most.

Go ask any cop what they think about us.  They think we're dog shit basically.  Their elitist attitude is so sickening it'll turn your stomach.

It's the identical same attitude police in a communist country have, and every single cop in America has it.  They're trained into it.  It's the universal cop mentality in America now.

Go up to the federal level and it's even worse.  Those people really are nazis.  They really would love to gun you down.  But they'll settle for confiscating everything you have.

You people need to get up to date here.   This is a communist country now.  Accept it.  Get used to it.  What other choice do you have?

You can live in a communist country.  Millions of people do.  Hundreds of millions.  Just behave, watch what you say, pay those taxes, be ready for your property to be confiscated on some flimsy charge, and you'll do ok.


daemon's picture

" You people have got to stop living in the past. This isn't America anymore. "

Have you ever watched westerns, particularly those where you can see a rich land owner, not only owning most of the land, but also the sheriff and a lot of other things and people ?

I know those westerns are, for the large majority of them fictions, but, I wonder to what point they are inspired by true stories ?

TheReplacement's picture

Read up on Billy the Kid and that episode - it was just like you describe.

daemon's picture

" Read up on Billy the Kid and that episode - it was just like you describe. "

Thanks a lot for the info. I will read.

PT's picture

Four chan: Yeah, I thought it was going to be about banks lending money to idiots who pay too much for things.

"Oh, that guy had more money than me and bid the price higher.  I guess I just have to work harder."

(Then thing gets repossessed because idiot couldn't afford the repayments, thing gets held off market / destroyed / sold to bigger idiot at higher price, and bank gets bailed out.)

TrumpXVI's picture

There are good cops, I have known some, but more and more, I'm scratchin' my head just trying to figure out exactly what the cops actually do besides write up reports of crimes.

We need fewer, not more cops, and more civic minded citizens to help with local community order.  We need no "militarized" cops.  People need to take back their communities and take more responsibility for keeping their homes and communities secure without "professional help".

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

Foreshadowing of things to come.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

When told that 90% of your 'money' will disappear when the banks fail, the population will cheer when a solution is 'found' that only takes 50%.

Like standup comedy it's all in the delivery folks.

tickhound's picture

My plan finds an additional 10% on top of the 50% my opponent promises... for those earning less than $250k. Folks, that's 10% more money, money that was yours in the first place, money that never would've been lost if it wasn't for a few fat cat bankers... Money that my plan will SAVE you.

See, unlike my opponent, I'm just like you. I want my money back too.

What do we want? Our 10%!! When do we want it? Now!!!

TheReplacement's picture

I think that would be the best thing in truth.  That would wake some more people up.  Not all, but some.

Flounder's picture

Proud of her, she stood up and won.


"Officer Fry's lawyers decided to settle the case last week for $77,500."

flacon's picture

Who exactly paid the $77K - the cop or the "city"? In the end the money comes from "the community" no matter which way it's sliced. I say they should execute cops who pull shit like what he did. 

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

I suspect the 'city' paid the settlement. Besides the cop was just following orders...even if he was a bit too enthusiastic and diligent in his execution.


laomei's picture

The cop should be fired and his personal assets seized and auctioned off to the general public to pay the fines.  Anything leftover can go towards "auction fees", you know, just like how they do it with citizens.

what's that smell's picture

the cop should be fired, jailed, impoverished, and forced to do time at a glory hole to meet his child support payments.


Bangin7GramRocks's picture

Open up and say ahhh, here comes another smelly hard cock.

A Nanny Moose's picture

Nazi's were also "just following orders" :P

jez's picture

They'll have to stop a lot more drivers to make up that kind of loss.

Grinder74's picture

Their insurance company.

WeeWilly's picture

Typically, local jurisdictions have insurance that will pay civil judgements against them after a deductible. Places like this one appear to be flaunt the purpose of the law to the extreme. Hopefully, insurance companies will wise up and deny their coverage which really puts the town on notice.

A couple of points in the article I thought were misleading. We know the theory of the asset forfeture statutes, right? It is designed to deny law breakers of the benefits of money obtained illegally. You know the old story, drug dealers who have houses and Cadillacs but no visible means of support. Not saying I agree with the theory but there it is. The main problem I see with asset forfeiture is in the application by departments. It is true, some agencies see it as a money making deal and abuse the system. However, to say it is designed to take "hard-earned" money from people is a misstatement. It is designed to take money raised from criminal activity.

The author says it impacts poor people. Too funny. Poor people have no assets to seize. Duh.

These actions can not be taken based on "suspicion". Forfeitures are based on probable cause. The fact the author misses such an important distinction makes me wonder about his knowledge and understanding of the practice.

Show both sides of the argument, OK? Like most things, there are two points of view and the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Blast away boys! lol

armageddon addahere's picture

The real kingpins know better than to have anything in their names and they work through front men, and they pay off the cops and politicians as necessary. Consequently, they are immune to such annoyances. It's only the little people who get victimized.

SoDamnMad's picture

I moved overseas and am glad I did. Our police are fair , courteous and generally effective.  I read weekly of the seizures, beatings, manslaughter and brutality of "American peace officers"(sarc) on the public and see why they are so well armed with the military hardware returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. America, be afraid. Be very afraid for they are your enemy. They are the terrorist wing of the government.

syntaxterror's picture

Give it up. Please tell where we can find fair government.

All Risk No Reward's picture

It'll be bankrupt soon enough and the extrapolated goody train will hit the wall.

Applied basic math is not a pleb forte...

Proofreder's picture

Where, overseas, did you move   How long to become acclimated  Can you make it work on $36k/year annuity income ?

Time to sell the house and get a move on, little doggie ???

potato's picture

In a Katrina situation, even all the preppers are fvcked. Imagine trying to defend against armed hooligans looting in armored vehicles...

laomei's picture

Pretty much gonna echo this sentiment.  It ain't a perfect paradise here, but compared to the US... 

PrecipiceWatching's picture

Smug, baseless ignorance.

America has fallen far,  but the VAST majority of it is still far better than nearly anywhere else on Earth.