A Massachusetts couple has been fighting for three years to regain cash they say was wrongfully seized from them. In October 2012, the Illinois State Police pulled over Adam and Jennifer Perry for speeding as they were driving through Henry County on Interstate 80. The Perrys said they were headed to Salt Lake City, Utah to see a hearing specialist for an ear infection Adam was suffering from.
A drug dog sniffed and indicated on the car. Officers then searched the vehicle and found $107,520 in cash in a suitcase and in Jennifer’s wallet. The Perrys claimed the search was without their consent and without a warrant. According to the officers, they also found a duffel bag that reportedly smelled of marijuana.
No drugs were found in the car, nor did the government file criminal charges against the Perrys. Nevertheless, officers seized the cash and eventually transferred it to the federal government.
In a letter filed earlier this month, Adam claims that the taken cash came from savings and disability settlements and payments. “Our faith in the United States legal system has been shaken. Why are officer’s [sic] allowed to be judge, jury and executioner on the side of the road?” the Perrys asked in a 2013 response to federal prosecutors.
Unfortunately, their case is not unique. An extensive investigation by The Washington Post into one federal forfeiture program found nearly 62,000 cash seizures since 9/11 where police did not use warrants or charge the owners with a crime. Out of those seizures, more than 1,700 were in Illinois alone.
Moreover, for federal civil forfeiture cases, property owners are not presumed innocent and do not have a right to an attorney. With few safeguards, police and prosecutors can profit from forfeiture. Illinois agencies received more than $186 million in federal forfeiture funds between 2000 and 2013 from the U.S. Department of Justice, according to the Institute for Justice’s report, Policing for Profit.