The Campaign For DA

4.16.2015

"DPS Traffic Stop Leads to Large Cash Seizure"



WESLACO, TEXAS – The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) seized more than $743,000 in cash on Wednesday after a traffic stop on U.S. Highway 77 in Kleberg County.

At approximately 11:20 a.m., a DPS trooper stopped a Ford Explorer traveling southbound on U.S. Highway 77 for a traffic violation. During the traffic stop, the trooper discovered 67 bundles of U.S. currency hidden in the rear quarter panels of the vehicle. 

The driver, Miguel Guadalupe Medrano, 23, of Brownsville, was arrested for money laundering and booked into the Kleberg County Jail.


DPS is bragging about this today by posting this on Facebook. Other than the facts listed above, I know nothing else about it. No drugs? No paraphernalia? Let's assume that's all the relevant facts.

I suppose most will say, "That has to be drug money." But to do so means you are guessing and assuming. And by doing so, you allow the government to confiscate money based upon a guess or an assumption. It can legally be forfeited to the State if the State can prove it is "probably" drug money. You prepared to do that? Why? The driver had a Hispanic surname? That it was in Brownsville? That's all you need?

But the plot gets thicker. The driver was arrested for "money laundering". That means they are accusing him of a the crime of transporting proceeds of a criminal activity. That's really ramping it up from trying to take someone's money. Now they are after a person's freedom. You know what the range of punishment is for that crime is in this situation? The same as murder. But do you think the State can prove his guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt"? Will you go that far? You don't have any doubt that you consider to be reasonable?

And now the dirty little secret. Hypothetically, what if a prosecutor in this type of situation says to the driver's lawyer, "We can cut you a pretty sweet deal on that criminal case and give the driver probation on this first degree felony if he will agree to let us and DPS keep the money." What's the driver going to do? The criminal case is beyond flimsy and he probably wouldn't be convicted at trial, but he can guarantee he'll stay out of prison if he gives the State the money.

Let me quote current Texas Supreme Court Justice (and Twitter happy)  Don Willett: “A generation ago in America, asset forfeiture was limited to wresting ill-gotten gains from violent criminals. Today, it has a distinctive ‘Alice in Wonderland’ flavor, victimizing innocent citizens who’ve done nothing wrong.”

And let me trick up the words of Tom Petty as I think about a case where the forfeiture laws were blatantly abused by police and prosecutors: "[Shake down.] Go ahead and give it to me."