Livingston, MT -- Lorenzo Ayala was on his way back from being stood up by a woman he met online when he was pulled over and subsequently robbed by a Montana State Trooper.
During his drive to meet his online friend, Ayala, who is also a farmer, was also going to purchase parts for his broken tractor so he had his savings of $16,000 in his trunk.
On his way to California, Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Erick Fetterhoff pulled Ayala over on Interstate 90 near Livingston, according to court records.
Fetterhoff is trained as an expert to seek out substances that his bosses tell him to kidnap and cage people for possessing. He said in his police report that he smelled cologne and saw multiple suspicious items indicative of these substances.
Fetterhoff then deprived Ayala of his right to be secure in his own belongings and began to tear apart his vehicle in search of illegal drugs.
No drugs were found.
What was found, however, was $16,020 that Ayala had saved to purchase parts to fix his tractor. Despite the Highway Patrol not finding any illegal substances, and not charging Ayala with a crime, his money was 'seized' or stolen, depending on who you ask.
This money was stolen in June of 2013. It was then used to help finance an entire unit devoted to pulling people over and stealing their property. In the last 18 months alone, the patrol has spent more than $170,000 of stolen funds to build a larger operation to keep stealing more funds in a crazy cycle of robbery for growth.
The good news is, however, that their robbery scheme will soon be coming to an end, or at least it will be heavily diminished.
For years, the courts acted with the police and were able to rob people like Ayala without convicting them of a crime. But on July 1, all of that changes.
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Montana became the fourth state to overhaul their "policing for profit" scam. At the beginning of next month, officers must store suspects' assets until the owner is convicted of a crime involving that property.
"The police ought to have to prove something before they take your stuff away," Chris Young, one of Ayala's attorneys, said. "And now they do."
While this is a small step forward in the fight to stop the fleecing of American citizens by law enforcement, it will likely lead to a slew of other problems. Police will likely be reluctant to bring their windfall operations to a halt, so they will likely take any means necessary to seek convictions; whether or not the person is actually guilty of a crime.
Road piracy in the US has reached epic proportions.
It has gotten so bad that the Canadian government has issued a public service announcement for its citizens warning them that American Road Pirates, aka police officers, may very well rob them upon entry into the US.
Since September 2001, there have been 62,000 incidents of road piracy; resulting in a booty of over $2.5 billion.
In the US, “298 departments and 210 task forces have seized the equivalent of 20 percent or more of their annual budgets since 2008” according to a report by the Post.
Some might try and say that this money and property is obviously “taken from criminals” in order to rationalize this theft on a massive scale. However, as is evident in the case of Mr. Ayala, the government does not have to charge you with a crime, let alone convict you, to take your property and after they steal your property the burden of proof is on you to get it back.
Only one sixth of the 62,000 cases of cash forfeitures to police in the last decade have been challenged in court due to the high cost of challenging the state; not to mention that since their money was stolen, even if they once had the funds to challenge the theft, they may not any longer.
The justice department’s asset forfeiture fund in 2011 was $1.8 billion.
In Philadelphia alone, more than $64 million in seized property has been taken in the last decade and 100% of it has gone into the pockets of cops, judges, and other bureaucrats with a hand in the treasure chest.
But these billions stolen from the citizens of this country by the ones who claim to keep them safe, are just an example of a few bad apples, right? It’s most assuredly not a systemic problem resulting from the glaring unaccountable nature of the state.