MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - It’s become a nearly $1.5 million question: Should authorities seize cash based on reasonable suspicion alone?
On September, 5 the Interdiction Taskforce confiscated nearly $1.5 million in cash after searching a semi-truck in Baldwin County.
Authorities said the driver first denied knowledge of the money. According to deputies, he later changed his story, claiming someone was going to pick up the money in Mobile.
The Baldwin County case however comes just a few months after a judge ordered Nebraska state police to return more than $1 million seized from an exotic dancer in a similar but separate case.
In both cases, no arrests were made.
“It's not illegal to carry a bunch of money in your person or in your vehicle,” said Attorney Matt Green. “For the government to seize it and to order it to be forfeited, it has to produce evidence that the property seized are the fruits or instrumentalities of a crime or used to facilitate a crime.”
Green, who is a former assistant district attorney in Baldwin County said, the seizure laws are complex and controversial.
Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran said law enforcement officials use a variety of resources to backup their suspicions.
“There’s no set amount of money that says ‘Ok, this is drug proceeds. This is not drug proceeds,’” said Sheriff Cochran. “Obviously, it's what an average and reasonable person would expect to carry, cash.”
Officials said they also look at driver’s backgrounds and where they are headed.
At least one man is attempting to claim the cash seized in Baldwin County. Green said, unlike criminal cases, the man will also have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence, that the money belongs to him.
Federal, state and local authorities continue to investigate the cash and any criminal ties.
Investigators are testing the bills for drugs and also tracking the serial numbers.
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