You may have heard of asset forfeiture laws. They’re a way for police forces to take money from people who are not even accused of a crime, if they believe the money may have been gained through illicit means. It is then up to the person who has had the money taken from them to prove they are innocent, which is often impossible.
Unfortunately, this troubling phenomenon is still taking place and is targeting innocent people.
State police sergeant Dennis Overton pulled over Guillermo Espinoza in July of 2013, for an unspecified “traffic stop.” Overton requested a drug dog, which did not alert on Espinoza’s car. (If the dog did, it would’ve given police probable cause for a search).
Unsatisfied, Overton asked Espinoza to consent to a search, which Espinoza agreed to. The dog alerted on a bag that contained nearly $20,000 in cash. Despite finding no drugs, paraphernalia, or any other evidence of drug trafficking, Overton was convinced that Espinoza was a drug dealer.
“I’ve worked this interstate for the last eight years… Half of my career I’ve spent out here. OK? Nobody—nobody—carries their money like that but one person. OK? People that deal with drugs, and deliver drugs. That’s it. Nobody else. Nobody,” Overton told Espinoza.
Overton essentially stole his money with no evidence, because he believed he must be a drug dealer. No trial, no due process, just one southern cops word against an unfortunate hispanic man.