An Arkansas court has ruled that the $20K taken from him during a traffic stop — during which he was not even ticketed, let alone arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime — will not be returned.
Back in July 2013, Guillermo Espinoza was travelling with his girlfriend to Texas, when they were pulled over by the Arkansas State Police. During the stop, a drug dog alerted to a computer bag. Inside, police found $19,894 in cash, which they promptly seized. No contraband was found during the stop.
Although prosecutors in Hot Spring County never charged Espinoza with a crime, they filed a complaint to forfeit his cash in civil court. Espinoza challenged the forfeiture, arguing that “the stop, search and seizure by law enforcement officers was unreasonable, unlawful and unconstitutional” and violated the Fourth Amendment. He also submitted paychecks and tax filings to show that his seized cash was “lawful earnings,” and not drug money. “The state should not be permitted to profit from its own wrongdoing,” he added.
The courts disagreed, because (presumably) they prefer not to give up money once they have it, especially when the victim in this case of literal highway robbery lacks the resources to force true accountability.