From Reason Alert:
Police Take an Indiana Man's Money and Keep It
Reason magazine's Radley Balko writes, "The Indiana case of Anthony Smelley illustrates just how perverse forfeiture proceedings can get. Early on a morning in January 2009, Smelley, who is 22, was pulled over while driving along I-70 in Putnam County, Indiana. Months earlier, he'd been in a car accident and won a $50,000 settlement. He states in court documents that he had taken around $17,500 with him that January day en route from his home in Detroit to St. Louis, to buy a new car for his aunt. Smelley was pulled over for making an unsafe lane change and driving with an obscured license plate. He was also driving with an expired driver's license. His traffic stop should have ended with citations for those infractions. Instead, the police officer asked Smelley to get out of the car and patted him down, finding the cash. The officer then called in a K-9 unit for a sniff search of Smelley's car for drugs. The dog alerted twice. Smelley and two passengers were arrested, and the police seized Smelley's money. A subsequent hand search of Smelley's car turned up no illicit drugs, and no criminal charges were ever filed against Smelley or his passengers. Smelley produced a letter from a Detroit law firm confirming he had been awarded the $50,000 from the accident. That didn't matter. Putnam County has since held Smelley's money for more than a year."