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I'm not sure of all the cases, but one of the major common factors seems to be possession of large amounts of cash. They're essentially saying that no one has a legitimate cause to hold thousands of dollars in cash, so they must be doing something illicit, so we have cause to take it.

It shouldn't be legal, but thanks to the drug war and post-9/11 anti-terrorism politics, it's been enabled by federal legislation and rules. It needs to get challenged more in the courts on constitutional grounds, but this takes money and time, which the usual victims don't have.

Also, they (the police) further complicate things by making it a civil asset forfeiture case against the property and not a civil or criminal case against the rightful owner.


> They're essentially saying that no one has a legitimate cause to hold thousands of dollars in cash, so they must be doing something illicit, so we have cause to take it.

Think about it statistically. The standard is "more likely than not" the money is obtained illegally. If you pull over 100 people with large amounts of cash, what percentage obtained it illegally? If it's greater than 50%, then you can always seize the cash under that standard. You don't need to make the judgment that no one has a legitimate reason to carry that cash, just the weaker judgment that it's statistically unlikely that the cash is legitimate.

Arguments like this are why it's a good thing we don't base our criminal justice system on statistics.

"Innocent until proven guilty" is very different from "Guilty because most people in similar situations are guilty, so let's not bother to prove it in this case."

The cops would have a field day, for instance by arresting college students at random on the weekend because statistically most will test positive for controlled substances.

"Proof" by evidence is an inherently statistical process. E.g. cops find a DNA match between a suspect and skin cells found under a murder victim's fingernails under circumstances where it is clear she tried to fight off her attacker. Does that "prove" guilt? No, it proves that under similar circumstances, guilty is highly likely. The problem is not that the justice system is statistical. That's unavoidable. The problem is the unfortunate confluence of the low standard of proof ("more likely than not" versus "beyond a reasonable doubt") combined with the high ratio of illegal versus legal reasons for carrying large amounts of cash (i.e. a high prior odds ratio).

FWIW (Rayiner knows this, but maybe everyone else doesn't):

The concept of "proof of innocence" does not appear in the Constitution; it derives from common law, and the Latin word it comes from doesn't mean "prove" in the mathematical sense.

Which makes sense, because "innocent until formally proven guilty" doesn't make sense in a sentence that proceeds to "beyond a reasonable doubt".

And it's interesting, too, how often people go in the other direction, and seem to think "any shred of theory, however improbable, means you can't be found guilty", and attempt to try to classify it as "beyond any/all doubt".

Yes, but statistically analyzing the likelihood of guilt using given evidence is different than arbitrarily linking blanket cases where there is no defined connection. Just saying "cash is suspicious so we are allowed to seize it whenever we see a lot of it" is a blatant violation of property rights. There is absolutely no crime that can be linked directly to cash ownership.

> If you pull over 100 people with large amounts of cash, what percentage obtained it illegally? If it's greater than 50%, then you can always seize the cash under that standard.

That's an interesting question, but it's not obviously greater than 50%. Honestly, I don't think it's higher than 50% at all, but certainly it isn't so clearly higher that it should be accepted without evidence.

Not only that, but just because it's currently popular to pay with plastic or some other form of electronic transfer, it shouldn't "criminalize" cash.

I'm not a conspiracy nut but I can certainly see how someone who is could view this as an effort to legally coerce citizens into using only traceable methods of payment approved by commercial processors under the implication that something like cash or bitcoin would only be used by those trying to hide something.

> They're essentially saying that no one has a legitimate cause to hold thousands of dollars in cash, so they must be doing something illicit, so we have cause to take it.

IANAL, but I'd suspect that the usual logic goes: Usually a person carrying a large amount of cash is a criminal who got the cash illegally. So, anyone with a large amount of cash is likely a criminal, and we will treat them as such.

The gap here is that the person so treated need not have done anything wrong and are being prosecuted due to the crimes of others.

I doubt that there is a law saying that having $20,000 in cash is illegal.

So, if are going to prosecute Joe, then need to do so from something Joe did, and prove he did it. That most people with a lot of cash got the cash illegally doesn't mean that Joe did anything illegal, and there's no law against having a lot of cash.

I've learned my lesson: Often the police are enforcing social norms and attitudes instead of laws and are enforcing these against people who are not in the center of the respectable middle class.

E.g., since I'm doing a startup, I'm keeping down spending and driving an old car. Since the car still, with a lot of maintenance, is fine, I can keep driving it.

But recently I had occasion to go to a poor, largely Black, section of town. On the way out of that section, I was followed closely by a police car. I just drove in a very legal and normal way, and, by the time I was out of that section of town, the police car quit following me. But, I learned my lesson: At least with an old car, stay the heck out of a poor, Black area of town -- that's the real law.

More of the real law is to participate in church, JAYCEES, Lions, school board, be well known and liked, make contributions to political campaigns, contribute to the Fraternal Order of Police and any police charity drives, have some associated decals on the windows of my car, drive a late model, family car, dress well, no beard, hair short, be known to the local political power structure, etc. Be known to the police in my neighborhood. Ah, they didn't tell me such things in civics class.

For more, get rich and be a very anonymous donor to some legal efforts to mount well funded challenges to such highway robbery in the courts.

AFAIK, that's just basically how things work in the US. In some other countries, the citizen either (A) is too poor to have anything anyone would want to steal or (B) has some money and keeps paying off the political power guys.

Apparently that we could actually follow the Constitution seems to be mostly a long shot.

In the meanwhile, the power structure wants (A) bend the Constitution and slap down the drug dealers, and likely anyone else they don't like, so that when anyone looks at all suspicious just steal any of their valuables and (B) put up with excesses by the police, especially since the excesses are mostly toward poor people.

So, the real law is, for any poor and/or Black stopped by the police, look like the old movie character stepin fetchit, be passive, submissive, subordinate, subservient, obsequious, act like a harmless child, hang head, don't make eye contact, keep hands in plain view, make only slow motions, and let the egotistical, bully thugs, with their dark, aviator sun glasses, SS like uniforms with lots of shiny metal attachements, get their jollies and let the power structure be happy with an orderly rhythm to the community.

Otherwise the police have wide latitude to enforce the laws, act as prosecutor, judge, and jury, proscribe and execute sentences, all on the street, based just on anything, no charges, no due process, nothing. So, all with no due process at all, the police can embarrass, insult, humiliate innocent citizens, steal their valuables, insert things into their rectums and/or vaginas, beat them with clubs, shock them electrically, and, for any reason or no real reason, just shoot and kill them.

The power structure and the police can expect that some citizens will object.

Our Founding Fathers understood kings, dictators, secret police, bullies, thugs, etc. and gave us a good Constitution. We need to stop making incredibly contrived, complicated rationalizations why the very clear words in the Constitution don't mean what they very clearly do say.

Of course, the solution is democracy: When enough citizens get angry enough, there will be changes.

Another solution is a lot more video from smartphones, dash cams, etc.

And, just now, that the mainstream media (MSM) likes ad revenue from eyeballs and stories about scandal so much, the recent examples and video of police killing unarmed citizens has gotten a lot of attention. Now in courts, commonly a community with some police who went way too far gets slapped with a judgment of several million dollars.

So, any layer of government with a police force will need an insurance policy, and the rates will tend to show the risks. A police chief whose force causes such a several million dollar judgment will get to look for a new job far from police work. Or, money talks, and it will be talking loud and clear soon. And along the way, the increased attention may also stop the highway robbery.

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