Think about your savings for a moment. Whether you’ve just saved up a few hundred dollars for a rainy day, or a nest egg of tens of thousands of dollars, this is important money. And it’s your money. Legally earned and taxed. Now imagine that you’ve done nothing wrong, but the government takes this money and won’t give it back. And then the fight to get back this money goes on for more than a decade. It doesn’t sound possible in the modern American judicial system, yet that’s the exact position that a Chicago man has found himself in for 13 years now.
A Shoebox Full of Cash and the DEA
It’s uncontested that the government can seize money related to a crime. If you’re involved in drug dealing or rob a bank, you’re going to lose this money, and there’s not much an attorney can do about it.
However, federal law has been expanded in recent years to also give the government the power to confiscate money remotely suspected of being involved in illegal activity. And then the burden is on the defendant to prove his or her innocence to get that money back.
The Chicago Sun-Times recently detailed the unusual case of a Chicago real estate developer who, after destroying his credit in college and finding himself unable to open a bank account, began keeping his cash in a shoebox. In all, he saved up about $101,000 in cash over the course of several years.
In 2002, the developer gave this cash to a trusted friend to travel to Seattle in search of a new restaurant venue. The friend bought a one-way ticket at Union Station, which raised a red flag for DEA agents who said this was the type of suspicious activity that drug dealers are typically engaged in.
The agents spoke with the friend on the train. The government claims the friend gave them permission to search the bags, but this is disputed. Prosecutors also say that a drug-sniffing dog alerted to the presence of narcotics in the bags, but other than this, there is no evidence of any illegal activity. No drugs were found, and there has been no other indication that either the developer or his friend were involved in any illegal activity.
The developer has won several victories in court already to get his money back, but also lost on some issues as well. Earlier this year, at a trial, a jury found in the government’s favor. But the developer is now appealing, and it looks as if this case is far from over, especially given how much money is on the line.
Contact a Lawyer
Law enforcement should never be able to confiscate your legally obtained property. If police or federal agents are holding a large amount of your money that was not connected to any crime, you need an attorney on your side who will put up a fight to get this money back for you. For more information, contact the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane today for a consultation.