Cops Can Steal Your Cash At The Airport Even If You’ve Done Nothing Wrong


To be clear, having more than $10,000 in your possession is not illegal. There are plenty of perfectly legitimate reasons you might carry that much cash, such as when you’re traveling to buy a car from a private seller. Still, due to civil asset forfeiture laws, cops can just take your money whenever they feel like it. As Dan Alban, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, told Atlanta News First:

There is no method of transporting cash or storing cash that police will not say triggers probable cause. This person was wearing his shoes on his feet, and that’s something that’s a common characteristic of drug traffickers. Of course he was, because that’s how everyone wears shoes. This guy had money in an envelope, and that’s a characteristic of drug traffickers. It’s also a characteristic of how many other people transport cash.

“There was nothing illegal or suspicious in the smell of marijuana on the Claimant’s belongings,” the man’s attorney wrote when requesting his money back. “If the Claimant had smoked marijuana, he had legally done so in another jurisdiction … no basis for a seizure in Georgia.”

In Plane Sight, part two: Police can take your money without an arrest

The broker was able to provide receipts that proved he had earned his money legally, and eventually, the court agreed to return his money. Just not all of it. He got $17,887.50 back, but the county still kept $5,962.50. Why? That’s not clear, but we’re going to assume they just wanted it.

We’re not exactly strangers to the concept of civil asset forfeiture, but that doesn’t mean it stops being frustrating to read about people having their things stolen for no reason. Take, for example, the car broker highlighted in a recent Atlanta News First article. He was flying from Washington, D.C. to Sacramento, California and had a connection through Atlanta. As he was boarding his flight to Sacramento, officers with the drug task force pulled him aside and proceeded to take $23,850 in cash from one of his bags.

Did he have any drugs in his possession? Nope. Had he actually done anything illegal? Nope. A TSA agent just saw he had cash in his bag and narc-ed on him. The cops said his bags smelled like weed, so they just took his money. He was never arrested or charged with a crime, and recreational marijuana is legal in D.C. By flying “from Atlanta, a known drug hub city, to Sacramento, California, a known drug source city,” the prosecutor claimed that was enough of a reason to warrant taking his cash.