Newsbrief: Prosecutors Seize Bail Money, Claim Pot Smell -- A New Tactic? 1/3/03

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In two widely separated cases in December, local police and prosecutors attempted to seize bail money on the grounds that it smelled like marijuana and was thus presumed to be proceeds of illegal drug trafficking. The proceedings, in Massachusetts and South Dakota, may mark the emergence of a new tactic in the never-ending, ever-escalating attack on marijuana and those who use, buy, and sell the weed.

Last Sunday, police in Northampton, MA, confiscated $50,000 in cash from a Vermont couple who had come to bail their daughter out of jail after she was arrested on marijuana distribution charges. A police officer at the jail smelled the money and detected "a slight odor of marijuana," according to affidavit filed in support of the forfeiture. A drug sniffing dog then confirmed the odor, the affidavit said. Police then seized the money as the proceeds of drug dealing. Hampshire County prosecutors are seeking to confiscate the money. A hearing is set for January 16.

A week earlier and 2,000 miles away, police and prosecutors in Huron, SD, pulled the same stunt. According to court documents in State of South Dakota vs. $5,000 made available to DRCNet, police sought to seize $5,000 in cash bail on the grounds that it smelled of marijuana. Beadle County prosecutors revoked the bail of the young man in question and rearrested him. But Circuit Court Judge Jon Erickson, raising a judicial eyebrow at prosecutors' claims, ordered the defendant re-released. The prosecutors' motion to seize the $5,000 remains pending, but the person who put up the cash told DRCNet he is seeking legal counsel to fight the forfeiture.

In 1994, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that ruled that police officers could not seize suspected drugs money or raid premises just because a sniffer dog had indicated it was contaminated. They would need better evidence than that. All of which begs the question: How many pot dealers are throwing their hundred dollar bills in with the buds?

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Issue #270, 1/3/03 Editorial: Constitutional Inconveniences | Pressure for Change Mounts as Ontario Judge Rules Canadian Marijuana Possession Law Invalid 270/californiabudget Budget Crisis Forces California Governor to Consider Early Releases, Other Prison Measures | Prosecutors Enlist in Drug Czar's Anti-Marijuana Campaign -- Will Prioritize Marijuana Cases, Lobby Against Reform | Latin American Anti-Prohibition Conference, Feb. 12-15, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico | Cumbre Internacional Sobre Legalización, 15-Dec Febrero, Mérida, México | Newsbrief: Connecticut Legislator to Reintroduce Medical Marijuana Bill | Newsbrief: Prosecutors Seize Bail Money, Claim Pot Smell -- A New Tactic? | Newsbrief: Louisiana Drug Raid Draws Protests | Newsbrief: France Looking to Heighten Marijuana Penalties | Newsbrief: NJ Weedman to Get Day in Federal Court After Months in Jail for Thought Crime | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story | Newsbrief: Afghan Opium Farmers Drive Out Eradicators | Newsbrief: Ethiopian Farmers Turn to Khat in Face of Drought, Low Coffee Prices | DC Job Opportunities at DRCNet | The Reformer's Calendar
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