If you are pulled over during a traffic stop, and you were returning from a big week in Vegas and you won BIG, can they suspiciously take and hold your cash? That question was posed to our office recently and we were thinking, "Who drives to Vegas from East Tennessee?"
Imagine that you have been pulled over and a police officer asks to search your vehicle. You give permission to search and the officer discovers that you are transporting a large amount of money. Of course you know exactly how much money you have because you would not carry around a lot of money and have no idea how much it is worth. Now imagine the officer, for some reason, decides to seize your money under the forfeiture statute, T.C.A. 40-33-201 et seq., and he gives you a receipt for your property.
Good for him, he has followed the law that says he must give you a receipt stating, "[a] general description of the property seized and, if the property seized is money, the amount seized." But wait, you begin to look at the receipt later and discover that the officer has given a "general description" of the money he seized by saying, "a large unknown amount of US currency."
I don't know about you but that sounds suspicious to me. If an officer finds money wouldn't he or she be able to ascertain exactly how much money was taken. Isn't this duty especially important if it isn't his or her money?
Apparently this problem has taken hold in more than a few cases in Knox County and throughout Tennessee. I am not saying that money has been stolen by the police, but I am simply stating that how would anyone know if it was? If there is no amount of money listed after being counted immediately after the seizure who is to say that money is not missing because of being misplaced, mishandled or intentionally taken. After all, nobody knows how much there was to begin with except the person who it was seized from and who is going to believe them?
The law says that when money is seized it should be counted. This is a simple task and one that should be done every time money is seized. If you have money seized, demand that it be counted in front of you and signed off on then and there.
Some solutions may be requiring officers to count the money immediately upon seizure, or at least at the scene, in front of the cruiser camera where there is some proof as to an approximate amount. Another may be appointing specific seizure officers who are tasked with the seizing of money and property who have specific protocol on handling property.
The easiest thing to do is count the money and put it on the seizure receipt. How hard could it be? If you feel that you have had property converted wrongfully or something seized that you know was seized, but now it is missing, call the Law Office of Andrew Farmer at (865) 428-6737 for a free consultation. We serve clients in many East Tennessee cities. Let us be your East Tennessee attorney.