Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Show This Guy The Money

So what happens when you get a speeding ticket and have a large amount of cash in your trunk? Apparently in Seattle, you lose your money:

The 35-year-old from British Columbia, who had a valid driver's license, struggled to tell the trooper where he was going and how long he had been in Washington, prompting the trooper to search his car, Merrill said.

The trooper found two suitcases in the trunk — one filled with $276,640 in cash. The driver claimed he won the stacks of dollar bills at 23 casinos in Washington, California and Nevada, but he was unable to produce any receipts, according to Merrill.

The money was confiscated as the State Patrol investigates the incident. [Washington State Patrol spokesman Jeff] Merrill said if it is determined the man obtained the money legally it will be returned to him. [Emphasis mine]

First off, under what law was the trooper allowed to search the car? Is struggling to tell an officer where you have been really "probable cause"?

More importantly, I want you to pay close attention to the bolded sentence. One would expect the legal system to default to the presumption of innocence and, in the absence of evidence on which the cops could file charges, let the guy keep the money. But no; the man has to prove his innocence in order to get his money back. Essentially, the Washington State Patrol has told this guy that, while he may have come by this large sum of money perfectly legally, he has to provide evidence that the money didn't come from a crime or else he loses everything. Anyone else see a problem with this? Why is the burden of proof on the accused here?

I currently have $10 in my wallet. I know I didn't get it by robbing anyone or dealing drugs, but I can't possibly prove that. Should I just go ahead and fork that over to the cops if I get caught stealing?


Mike said...

My guess on the search is probably that the officer asked the guy if he could search his car, and the guy said sure. Doesn't sound like he had anything to hide. Granted I've never walked out of a casino with a whole ton of money, but I've also never gotten a receipt for the money I did earn, so I'm inclined to believe the guy. After all, he's Canadian.

As for taking the money, yeah, what the hell? The burden of proof should always be on those who claim guilt, not those who profess innocence. Of course, we all know that's not really how America works anymore. Damn liberal media.

Ben said...

If it's not probable cause to search the car, it's certainly suspicious. I can't say offhand what other indicia there might have been to make the cop think there was crime and/or contraband.

Speaking of suspicious, who the fuck carries around $276,640 in cash? I'm not saying this justifies the cops keeping the guy's money and shifting the burden of proof. But it seriously gives me pause. I might be inclined to let the cops hold the money while they investigate....but if they can't find anything soon, give it back to him.

Or I might not. I'd have to think about it for a second.