According to St. Louis Public Radio, police in Missouri abused a civil asset forfeiture scheme to seize at least $2.6 million from motorists during traffic stops in 2018.
St. Charles County cops stopped people for minor traffic violations and directed the drivers to a private lot owned by Superior Towing.
Officers searched the vehicles and claimed that drug-sniffing dogs detected the odor of marijuana on the occupants’ cash.
Cops then informed the unfortunate citizens that they had two options: go to jail or sign away their possessions to the police department and leave with a traffic ticket.
Of the 39 traffic stops, one-third were conducted after midnight. While no criminal charges were filed, almost half the drivers had Hispanic or Asian surnames.
State law requires a criminal conviction before forfeiture. But the cops exploited the federal Equitable Sharing program, which allows the cops to seize assets without a conviction as long as the feds get a 20 percent cut. Legislation was introduced by Representative Shamed Dogan to close the loophole and force cops to comply with state law. But the bill was defeated due to extensive opposition by a local police lobby.
Dogan, a libertarian Republican, has attempted for several years to reform the illegitimate practice of seizing assets from people who haven’t been convicted of any crime.
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