I am Tom Freeland, a lawyer in Oxford, Mississippi. The picture in the header is my law office. I'm on Twitter as NMissC

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Can we agree something major is missing in this story? (paging Raldey Balko)

The Clarion Ledger has a story a story about the great good luck of of the police force down in Morton, who had the good fortune to observe a truck come through the interstate driving “all crazy.”  They stopped it, the drug dog got all excited, and they did a search.  And guess what! The truck was carrying a cargo of $672K and dried peanuts, so, lucky them! They’re confiscating the money unless someone shows up to claim that cash.

That’s it.  Nothing but an excited dog, dried peanuts, and an inexplicably large pile of cash.  This would be a good time to bring the attention of you folks to Radley Balko’s article (h/t Habeas) about this very subject (to give Radley perspective, Morton is about 60 miles from Jones County, site of the MotorHomeDiaries stop).

In any event, here’s what happened down in Morton

The small Morton Police Department in Scott County seized enough money in one traffic stop Thursday to run the department for a year.

The money was in a tractor-trailer that a police officer chased six miles on I-20 west before stopping it at the Scott/Rankin county line.

Police believe the $672,439 take is drug money, but were not releasing details Thursday. Police also would not release the name of the woman driving the truck or say what she’s charged with. She is from California and is in custody in the Morton jail.

The stop that led to the seizure started around noon when Josh Hayman, the Police Department’s lone drug interdiction officer, spotted the truck driving erratically on the highway.

“He was pretty much getting ready to come back in for lunch. Then he saw this truck driving all crazy,” Police Chief Nicky Crapps said.

Hayman’s drug dog, Solo, alerted on the semi, and that gave officers probable cause to search it.

The dog “went crazy,” Crapps said excitedly.

More Morton officers by that time had arrived to assist Hayman.

Officers found the cash, mostly in small bills, stashed in a compartment inside the truck cab. The truck was hauling dried peanuts.

Crapps said the truck was en route to California from North Carolina. The money’s being kept in the the Bank of Morton, not at the Police Department.

It took bank employees nearly four hours to count the cash, Crapps said.

If no one claims the loot, the Police Department, which has nine full-time officers, can keep it, Crapps said.

Crapps, who has been chief for six months and in law enforcement in the Morton area for 35 years, said he’s never seen anything like the amount of money seized.

The department’s annual budget is $700,000.

The seized money could be used for much-needed equipment upgrades, Morton Mayor Greg Butler said.

“This is really going to help if it works out and we get to keep the money,” Butler said.

Yes, there may be something suspicious about hauling around that much cash.  But I think there’s something suspicious about the way drug dogs are used for probable cause, so let’s call it a wash.

50 comments to Can we agree something major is missing in this story? (paging Raldey Balko)

  • Phantom

    Sounds like the dog “alerted” to the out-of-state tag.

  • JaneT

    Prediction: she’ll be convicted and the conviction will be upheld on appeal notwithstanding Cuellar v. United States, 128 S.Ct. 1994 (2008). Just ask Quang Tran.

  • Bluzlover

    Police Cheif Nicky Crapps???? Get out the dog and roll those dicce, guys! Hoo boy, if I didn’t trust you, I’d think you made this one up (grinning).

  • Ben

    So … what’s a Morton city cop doing out on I-80? Isn’t that several miles outside his jurisdiction? And under what authority does the PD get to “keep” seized money? Shouldn’t that go into state coffers, or at least city or county coffers? I don’t see how a PD is a legal entity capable of “owning” anything.

    It might as well be 1810 here, rather than 2010.

  • Charlie Ali

    Went by there Wednesday and a Scott County Sheriff’s car was sitting on the side of the freeway watching the traffick coming into Scott…It is a legal lotto on I20.

  • The bigger racket. Ships are claimed drug smugglers and brought safely into port for distribution. In this case the town of Morton needed a boost. After all these folks can’t work for peanuts.

  • I-20 goes right through Morton.

    They want someone to come claim it? I think I might just have to go down there and claim that money for me.

  • Silence DoGood

    Don’t do it KF, it’s a trap!! LOL

  • Plexix

    It’s fairly common practice for police departments to sit on the interstate that goes through their town for precisely this reason…..why worry about people breaking into houses in the middle of town when there’s mega-$$$ to be made pulling over out-of-state vehicles out on the interstate? There is no doubt that this truck was not stopping in Morton but was rather just passing through. There is a HUGE incentive, given the way that forfeiture laws are written. They should be changed.

    Don’t even get me going on how cops can manipulate dogs to bark on command.

  • DeltaLawMama

    Once heard of a dog alerting in USAF base housing because of a stale Oreo in a child’s to box.

  • Jojo

    The dog should get a nice doggie treat for job well done (maybe a cookie).

  • PostHoleDigger

    Hey, what about the dried peanuts? Who gets them? Peanuts don’t grow on trees, you know!

  • Plexix

    Something else about this story is a little fishy. Are dogs trained to bark at money?
    No drugs were found, so why did the dog “go crazy?” If dogs are trained to bark at
    money, they will bark at every car that’s pulled over. That’s pretty convenient
    for the cops.

  • NotZachScruggs

    Crapps can put it all on the hard eight and pick up seven and a half million at the Golden Moon if he’s feeling lucky, and if he loses, he’s still got a damn good dog.

  • Bodean

    The defense attorney should put the dog on the stand, hold a $100 bill in one hand, peanuts in the other and see which one the dog goes for 1st. If I was a Attorney, I would do this pro-bono for the hell of it.

  • Robert

    Let me see here. I’m now closer to understanding the mental state of those working the Hinds County Court.
    Phantom @ 9:17 notes the alert of out of state tag. perhaps Phantom that applies to other things maybe legal causes before the court as a target of sort. I know we were targeted. Then Charlie @ 10:24 viewed a patrol car on I20 as part of a legal lotto. Jackpot Justice comes to mind. There are corrupted Judges on the bench as I write this and some attorneys like the dog barking for money on the interstate looking for that one big lick to the attempted legal lotto.It’s not everyone I know, however. My old home town of Dulac La. is looking better all the time. Once there I’ll claim political asylum to the federal court there. I’d like to share the behavour of the upper class in this state who disgrace the working men and women of this sh1t hole called Ms. Who appearently their only hope in life is to steal from others and use a sick minded logic to make some reason of it.

    Kingfish I own documents in my name claiming I’m owed a sh1t load of money. I could ride with you for half. That should cover my moving expense. The documents and ID. prove I’m me. The reason the money was hid was due a secret payment to end my bla,bla,bla about you know what. The second reason is it was being transported through Mississippi. And everyone knows how the law there is. Although I’m grateful for everyone for putting up with my personal woes in public form. This matter should have been resolved years ago.I’ve always took MS. for the devils test ground. Much of what was bad for everyone in this country started here. Having said this I feel for the good people made to suffer the greed myself included.

  • BoynamedSioux

    Cop agencies keeping forfeitures and performance based grants have caused serious damage to American Law Enforcement. The “militarization” of local cops has also gotten out of hand. Many of them look like Green Berets instead of local cops. They have a Rambo mentality that doesn’t fit traditional notions of local law enforcment.

    Off the subject: Robert, you’re lost, son. Find yourself. Some place else.

  • Robert

    BoynamedSioux everything is connected. You went from a a truck with cash and peanuts to grants serious damage to American Law Enforcement,Militarization of local cops, Green Berets and Rambo oh and traditional notions of law.
    Not lost had it all taken by serious damage to American law Enforcement and I’m seeking the militazization of action for the problem out of hand. Green Berets or Rambo would do. And how about that some place else being my home. OH ya! you forgot the dog.

    Off subject about law and the courts on a law blog. Wow image that!

  • BoynamedSioux

    I hope you get help.

  • wilnur

    What law can they claim is violated. I know of none. Someone enlighten me

  • WantedToBeALawyer

    Thanks for the heads up, NMC.
    I was wondering where I put that $672K.

    That’s my ex-mother-in-law. That explains it.

  • Robert

    BoynamedSioux, Sorry but your off subject. This post has to do with a truck full of peanuts and $672K which was stopped by cops in Morton. This is important because the money might belong to KingFish.The cops have applied the finders keeps law and it’s causing concern. “I hope you get help” Look if it will help you.

    The first two were kinda quite. Shrink number three knew I figured out what was going on. To bad for them and you. OK. When they asked for a forth, say what? hell no, batter up that was strike 3 the next one would no doubt be paid for a desired opinon. So I walked into a major shrink complex on my own handed them some documents and said. These huge corporates just destroyed my home made me sick and want to say I’m crazy. After looking @ da doc’s. the main man turned to me and said.

    Robert as a person go find you a good lawyer and a doctor for your medical conditions sue the hell out of these people and get the hell out of here there’s nothing mentally wrong with you.

    Now where are we on that peanut truck and any money recovery.

  • Ben

    Kingfish: I’ll file a stolen properyt claim with Atlanta PD, claiming $650,000 was stolen outta my motorcycle saddlebags when I stopped at a Wendy’s for lunch. Then I’ll sign a quitclaim document granting you all my right, title, claim and interest in that loot. So you present your “superior” claim in court, get an order granting you the loot, split it with me, and a good time will be had by all.

  • Fishwater

    Hydroponic Peanuts!

    Growing method created by President Jimmy Carter. $672k is his.

  • JaneT

    wilnur, you ask what crime? Ostensibly, she could be charged with transporting the proceeds of an unlawful activity in an attempt to disguise the nature, location, source, etc. of the funds which is a violation of both state law, M.C.A. § 97-23-101(1)(b)(ii)(1), and the identical federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(2)(B)(i). In 2008, the United States Supreme Court held that to prove a violation of the federal statute it is insufficient to prove that the defendant “was merely hiding funds during transportation . . . even if substantial efforts have been expended to conceal the money.” Cuellar. 128 S.Ct. at 2003. “The provision of the money laundering statute under which petitioner was convicted requires proof that the transportation was ‘designed in whole or in part to conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control’ of the funds.” Cuellar, 128 S.Ct. at 2006.

  • zen master

    I remember a case a few months ago where the probable cause to search following a traffic stop on the highway was a dog alerting to the presence of drugs; the ensuing search found 9 kilos of heroin in the car. What I wonder is, should we just assign every state trooper a drug-sniffing dog? That way, it seems, every vehicle search will be ironclad under the Fourth Amendment.

  • Habeas

    Zen Master: We are not too far from what you suggest. The U.S. Supremes have ruled that a police officer may stop any vehicle observed to have committed a traffic infraction (obscured license tag, missing tail light, changing lanes without signal, overly tinted windows, crossing yellow line, not wearing seat belt to name a few favorites). Even though the real reason for the stop is to investigate for drugs or other criminal activity, the officer’s subjective intent is not relevant so long as there was a lawful basis for the stop — a minor traffic violation. During the course of “reasonable detention” premised upon the traffic stop, a drug sniffing dog can be led around the exterior of the vehicle — and according to the Supremes this is not a “search” because it invades no “reasonable expectation of privacy” of the occupants of the vehicle and a drug dog’s “alert” is contraband specific (I guess when you sit on a high bench on top of Capitol Hill you just know these things). So long as the detention of the vehicle is not prolonged for a period unrelated to the traffic violation (checking license, registration, insurance and writing ticket or issuing a warning), there is no 4th Amendment violation. Even if it takes a few minutes to summon a drug dog to the scene, the prolonged detention of the vehicle does not become “unreasonable” so long as it is within the time frame of the stop (“Hey dispatcher, take your time running the computer check on this guy’s drivers license.”) When the dog “alerts” the cop has probable cause to search the vehicle without a warrant.

    However, there are many cases in which the detention has been deemed by lower state and federal courts to have exceeded the bounds of “reasonableness” and so a seizure lawful at the outset becomes unlawful.

    It has been noted (I believe by former Justice Souter) that as much as 80% of U.S. Currency is tainted with the scent of illegal drugs (marijuana and cocaine in particular). If this is true, then the dog may be alerting to the cash you have just withdrawn from the bank or an ATM.

    Moreover, dogs often are unnecessary because of the irrational tendency of persons carrying large amounts of cash or drugs to “consent” to searches of their vehicles — and say goodbye to their freedom,car and money in the bargain.

  • zen master

    Habeas, that’s pretty much exactly the way things went down in the case I was talking about. ICE and the FBI were tracking the driver as a suspected drug courier using a GPS device they had attached to his car. Fearing the GPS device was going to lose power, they contacted the state highway patrol in the state where the driver was and asked the state troopers to find a way to pull the car over. The state troopers pulled the car over for driving in the left lane, then called in a drug-sniffing dog. When the dog alerted to drugs in the car, the troopers searched the car and found the drugs.

  • Charlie Ali

    Cops can and sometimes do make a division of loot… A Coast Guard vet told me about a sea drug haul that was divided. The female was threatened and made the mule 2 sneak the drugs out of the station in New Orleans. The Souter comment about US currency is very interesting. U got a reference on that?

  • JaneT

    Last year Hinds deputies confiscated under $10,000 from some guy who was passing through town. No drug connection whatosoever. He had to get on WLBT’s “Three on My Side” and tell his story to get his cash back.

    Re: drug tainted currency, see

  • Habeas

    Charlie Ali: The Souter comment is contained in his dissent in Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 412 (2005), citing an 11th Cir. cash forfeiture case.

  • sweet09

    Placing the power to seize cash and/or assets in the hands of law enforcement where there is no proof of illegal activity is an affront to the freedoms supposedly guaranteed by the Constitution of this country. To use the cliche’ “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” hardly addresses the severity of this abuse. My father grew up in the depression and worked his butt off to avoid ever being back in that condition. He always kept what he called “a little money” in a hat box just in case. He always told me that if anything happened to him to go to the hat box first. By the time he died in his seventies, the “little cash” had grown to almost 300m. Sixty years of pinching pennies and dollars, just in case. Could I have “proved” where it came from and prevented it being seized by some half assed law enforcement officer or a two bit municipality desperate to fund a mis-managed governmnet. No. It’s just another abuse of power by the low class, i.e. the politicians under the guise of “legality”.

    “Love my country. Fear my government.”

  • Charlie Ali

    The “War on Drugs” and the prohibition of marijuana is the culprit. The ag lobby, pharma, corrupt tax accountants, some bankers, the Federal Reserve, DEA, traffickers, launders, some criminal lawyers & cops and the right-wing protestants keep the drug war going. If we had essential health care which includes drug treatment and could shut down the interests aforesaid, we would have a robust rural economy and an inner city population more disposed to social development. A rural economy based on reefer & organics instead of hogs and cotton would b better.

  • Do not blame the dog. It would be hard to find $100 in small bills that had not been used to snort a little blow!!

  • [...] Mississippi police hit jackpot, seizing $672K from a peanut truck they pulled over. No drugs, of course. Or anything else illegal. But hey, that’s a lot of cash! Amazing how often these drug dogs alert to drugs that aren’t there. Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark [...]

  • J sub D

    If dogs are trained to bark at money, they will bark at every car that’s pulled over. That’s pretty convenient for the cops.

    The dogs are trained to alert at whatever their handler wants them to.

    Nobody in law enforcxement wants to do a double blind test on the accuracy of drug sniffing dogs. Guess why?

  • paulc

    90% of all US notes in circulation are contaminated with cocaine… which means it is an absolute certainty that any sum of cash confiscated is contaminated…

  • Why don’t we just throw the Bill of Rights away, already? We’re not using it, anyway.

  • k

    Shouldn’t the default action be to RETURN THE MONEY if nobody claims it? Otherwise, where I come from we call that “theft”.

  • Robert

    Arrrr me mate. Mississippi be flying the Jolly Rogers. Take everything, leave nothing!

  • MEW

    Dogs are trained to bark at money??

    Here’s an idea. Dogs are trained to bark. On command. My dog is trained to bark. Any other human being can tell him to bark and he will do it.

    Here’s another idea. Dogs bark. Sometimes randomly, sometimes at things they like or dislike. Some can restrain themselves better than others. But they still just bark sometimes. My dog barks. So do police dogs. No matter how well you train my dog, he’ll bark at a giant container full of peanuts. He likes peanuts. So do I.

    Does a dog barking mean anything when there is a human around capable of commanding it to bark? No. Does a dog barking mean anything when even if there’s nobody around to command it to bark? No.

    You cannot logically eliminate the possibility that the dog was not commanded to bark nor can you eliminate the possibility that the dog barked randomly. This should be inadmissable as evidence and not a contributing factor to probable cause.

    But some people, somewhere, have invented the idea of a dog “alerting.” Ooooh that sounds much more officious now doesn’t it? Maybe if they call it “alerting,” the people whose job it is to produce evidence against other people will be able to make more evidence. Other people who determine whether something has or hasn’t happened might be open to the possibility of this “alerting” being something they’ve never encountered. Then, you can define “alerting” however you want. You can say “if a dog alerts, it means I have probable cause to search. If a dog alerts, I can introduce that as evidence of possession of something. Be that something a large quantity of drugs, money, demons, or evyl humours.”

    Don’t fall into the trap. Don’t use a fictional construct with which you disargree. Don’t say “alerted” instead of “barked.” Don’t recognize something you very well know doesn’t exist.

  • MichiganJFrog

    I would like to see a law passed that would require police departments release statistics on how many times a “drug dog” was called into the field vs. how many times that field call resulted in “probable cause” to search being established vs. how many times actual drugs were found.

    I bet those would be some fascinating numbers.

  • ifatree

    wow. i hope i get pulled over and a dog tries to bear witness against me. i’ll break out my horse that can tell when cops are lying and have him serve as an expert witness during the trial. “how can the horse tell the cops are lying?!”… their mouths are open.

  • ifatree

    “It has been noted (I believe by former Justice Souter) that as much as 80% of U.S. Currency is tainted with the scent of illegal drugs (marijuana and cocaine in particular).”

    false! that’s exactly the kind of cover story that best hides the fact that they’ve trained the dogs to sniff out cash just like it supposedly sniffs drugs. they admitted this particular dog went apeshit like it’s trained to do and all they found were a lot of bills. obviously that’s what the dog was hitting on – but is it more likely that many bills have cocaine? or more likely that every dept. has their dogs trained to sniff money so they can collect it and keep it just like they did here?

  • Here is an example Radley blogged about last year.

    Last weekend, we looked at the case of Bill Dillon, the Brevard County resident imprisoned for 27 years before DNA tests set him free…

    At least two other men suffered the same fate — and another shared link: a dog.

    Not just any dog. A wonder dog helped convict all three men: a German shepherd named Harass II, who wowed juries with his amazing ability to place suspects at the scenes of crimes.

    Harass could supposedly do things no other dog could: tracking scents months later and even across water, according to his handler, John Preston.

    After years of judges and juries falling for this crap….

    Judge Gilbert Goshorn ultimately exposed Preston.

    In the middle of a trial in which the dog was once again providing miraculous evidence — supposedly detecting tracks left by suspects six months prior — Goshorn ordered the dog to perform a much simpler test.

    The dog failed miserably.

    In an affidavit written after he retired, Goshorn said: “The dog simply could not track anything.”

    Criminal justice activists in Florida say there may be up to 60 more people wrongly convicted thanks to Preston’s wonderdog.

  • zen master

    “Alert” is what the prosecutors and the cases say. I don’t see any reason not to use that expression. My point was simply, when the K9 unit shows up, it’s Probable Cause Time, kids!

  • sweet09

    Badbcky pretty much sums it up. And that is coming from a former prosecutor! For that matter where is the constitution?

  • Robert

    About 2:am this morning my lab started barking. I guess when I awoken, although I felt alerted for some reason I rolled over and went back to sleep. He doesn’t bark for nothing I know but he’s also over protective. Anyway I didn’t see any lights flashing off the walls and as for money. Ha, guess the law has alreardy taken care of that one.

  • [...] cops! There just happened to be $672K in the car they stopped and they plan to keep it [Freeland] “The Forfeiture Racket: Police and prosecutors won’t give up their license to [...]

  • Crapps’ dog might have been barking, but my elephant was going beserk… hence the money is mine.

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