A trucker has sued the Drug Enforcement Administration, seeking to get back nearly $24,000 seized by DEA agents earlier this month at a weigh station on U.S. 54 in New Mexico north of El Paso, Texas.
Anastasio Prieto of El Paso gave a state police officer at the weigh station permission to search the truck to see if it contained “needles or cash in excess of $10,000,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the federal lawsuit Thursday.
Prieto told the officer he didn’t have any needles but did have $23,700.
Officers took the money and turned it over to the DEA. DEA agents photographed and fingerprinted Prieto over his objections, then released him without charging him with anything.
Border Patrol agents searched his truck with drug-sniffing dogs, but found no evidence of illegal substances, the ACLU said.
DEA agents told Prieto he would receive a notice of federal proceedings to permanently forfeit the money within 30 days and that to get it back, he’d have to prove it was his and did not come from illegal drug sales.
They told him the process probably would take a year, the ACLU said.
The ACLU’s New Mexico executive director, Peter Simonson, said Prieto needs his money now to pay bills and maintain his truck. The lawsuit said Prieto does not like banks and customarily carries his savings as cash.
He has to prove that he wasn’t doing anything illegal before he’s allowed to keep his money? Shouldn’t the government have to prove that he was doing something illegal before they can take his money in the first place? I seem to remember reading something in the constitution about that very issue.
I’m eager to see which Presidential candidates will step up to condemn this Constitutional outrage.