Any encounter with police officers can have unfortunate outcomes. If they discover that your insurance has lapsed or claim that you drove faster than you should, you could face expensive tickets. A traffic stop can also throw off your schedule and make you late for work or important appointments.
There’s another risk during any traffic stop, particularly for those traveling through South Dakota or near its borders. Officers might suspect interstate drug trafficking, especially if they find cash in the vehicle. Even a driver admitting that they have a large amount of cash when an officer asks could be a reason for those officers to search the vehicle, arrest that individual or maybe even seize their property.
Why can the police just take your money?
State law in South Dakota and federal policy allow for law enforcement professionals to seize the property of individuals involved in criminal offenses. Typically, officers need to believe the property played a role in criminal activity or that people purchased those assets with funds from criminal activity.
In the case of large amount of cash, officers might claim they suspect the money comes from drug distribution. Civil asset forfeiture laws in South Dakota don’t extend many protections to those dealing with the police.
The state doesn’t even need to bring criminal charges against you to seize your money or property because of allegations of criminal activity. The officers who complete the seizure simply need to assert that they believe your cash was intended for or earned from criminal activity like drug dealing.
Do you have any rights after the police take your property?
While state law does allow law enforcement officers to take your property even if they don’t have grounds to arrest you or charge you with a crime, you can still fight back. You probably have a good explanation for why you had cash in your vehicle.
Maybe you were on your way to buy a car for your teenage daughter. Perhaps you intended to buy a purebred dog from a breeder in another state, which could cost thousands of dollars. Having cash is not on its own a crime, and you shouldn’t have to worry about losing your hard-earned assets due to unsubstantiated allegations.
Understanding how civil asset forfeiture works will make it easier for you to fight back after the inappropriate seizure of your property.