It looks like what the American Civil Liberties Union calls “policing for profit” will turn a profit for a Florida police department that used a controversial “civil forfeiture” law to seize NFL player Letroy Guion’s brand new truck and $200,000 during a traffic stop.
In Guion’s case, a judge has ruled there was probable cause for the seizure, done under Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture Act. Under the law, if property taken by law enforcement is tied to a crime a judge can decide if the police can keep it.
The judge’s thoughts? Guion was allegedly traveling down a known “drug corridor” with large amounts of money, saying this ” is strong evidence that currency was intended to be furnished in return for drugs.”
In the past the ACLU has argued many police departments misuse the civil forfeiture take money and property from arrestees, even keeping the loot after charges are dropped or dismissed.
“People who deal drugs, they have no rules and a lot of money. Police departments, sheriff’s offices, they have a lot of rules and not a lot of money,” says Starke Police Chief Jeff Johnson, noting that forfeiture money and property always goes to good use. For example, Johnson would like to use Guion’s money to replace police cars that are over a decade old.
Florida law dictates how the money can be spent: “If the seizing agency is a county or municipal agency, the remaining proceeds shall be deposited in a special law enforcement trust fund established by the board of county commissioners or the governing body of the municipality. Such proceeds and interest earned therefrom shall be used for school resource officer, crime prevention, safe neighborhood, drug abuse education and prevention programs, or for other law enforcement purposes, which include defraying the cost of protracted or complex investigations, providing additional equipment or expertise, purchasing automated external defibrillators for use in law enforcement vehicles, and providing matching funds to obtain federal grants.”