April 13, 2021

Jerry Johnson is the proud owner and operator of a small trucking business and lives just outside Charlotte, North Carolina. To keep his business growing, Jerry saved his money until he had enough to purchase a third semi-truck. And based on his research, Jerry was confident he could find a good deal at an auto action in Phoenix, Arizona. So, in August 2020, Jerry did something that is completely legal: he flew domestically with cash (from Charlotte to Phoenix). That was when his trouble began.

After Jerry landed at the Phoenix airport, he was approached by a detective and questioned about the cash. That detective accused him of laundering money for illegal drugs and refused to believe that Jerry was operating a legitimate business. Eventually, under the threat of arrest and further interrogation, Jerry let the detective take the $39,500 that he had in his carry-on and checked bag. He returned home the next day without his money and without a truck.

Jerry teamed up with the Institute for Justice to help him fight for his money. Making someone prove their own innocence before they can even contest the forfeiture of their property violates the constitutional guarantee of due process. After an Arizona appeals court ruled for Jerry, the state returned his money with 12% interest and dismissed his case with prejudice, meaning that it cannot be filed again.