Class-Action Suit Challenges DEA and TSA use of Civil Asset Forfeiture
A new class-action lawsuit seeks to prevent the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) from seizing cash from travelers without probable cause to do so.
The Institute for Justice is suing the agencies, alleging they target innocent travelers carrying large amounts of cash – essentially using them as ATMs to help fund the agency:
…it’s absolutely legal to travel with any amount of money domestically,” said Dan Alban, a senior attorney with Institute for Justice. “But, unfortunately, both TSA and DEA have policies that treat what they consider to be large amounts of money as presumptively suspicious and indicative of criminal activity.”
He is suing on behalf of thousands of air travelers, seeing the return of seized money and an end to a nationwide policy the law firm says is “absolutely absurd” and “unconstitutional.”
“If you travel through an airport with more than $5000 or $10,000, and it’s detected when you go through TSA security screening, they will stop you,” said Alban. “They will detain you. They will interrogate you. And, more likely than not, they will seize your cash and try to permanently forfeit it using civil forfeiture.”
Civil asset forfeiture creates absurd and potentially corrupting incentives for law enforcement to seize cash and property with little to no legal justification. Reforming civil asset forfeiture laws at the federal level, however, has been difficult because lawmakers are leery of somehow looking soft on crime. The real crime is allowing government to take whatever it wants, from anyone it wants, without a shred of due process protection.