Above the law
From the Sarasota Herald-Tribune
BRADENTON -- For years, the Bradenton Police Department has quietly, without judicial review, confiscated hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash andLooks to me Chief that there is something wrong. Have you ever heard of 'Innocent till proven guilty'?
property from people they arrested for drug possession and other crimes.
The police bypass the courts and confiscate money and property on the
spot through a department-created form called the "Contraband Forfeiture
Agreement." By signing it, a person agrees to relinquish their property to the
police and waive any rights they have to try to get it back through the courts.
In some cases -- including one last year where police seized more than
$43,000 from a man during a traffic stop -- people have signed over cash and
other property without ever getting charged with a crime.
The cash and revenue from other forfeited property, such as cars, DVDs and TVs, go into a police bank account and is spent on equipment, drug abuse prevention and
community-based programs. The bank account has reached $150,000 in recent years.
A Manatee County judge last year found fault with the
department's forfeiture procedure in a case where police took more than $7,000
from a woman arrested for a driver's license violation after a traffic stop.
Judge Douglas Henderson said Jicela Baneles, 28, did not knowingly and
willingly agree to give up her money -- despite the appearance of her name on
the department's forfeiture agreement.
Police were ordered to return the money.
Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski said Henderson did not
dismiss the agreement itself in the Baneles case.
"He didn't say the written agreement wasn't any good," Radzilowski said. "If the courts say we're doing something improper or illegal, we'll change it."
The trouble with seizures like those done in Bradenton is that they can both be abused and the innocents seperated from their cash and posessions. My wife just recently went on a trip to her hometown in the Philippines. She took no travellers' checks but instead took a large wad of $100 bills. Since those bills get more pesos than the checks when exchanged, most Filipinos bring US money home. So if my wife or a Filipino was stopped by a cop and found with lots of cash, they are to be considered a criminal?
Alot of cash on hand doesn't make one automatically a criminal. Chief Radzilowski needs to be put in his place, he isn't above the law.
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