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This year, they’d decided to buy a used car in Linden, which had plenty for sale, and so they bundled their cash savings in their car’s center console.

Just after dusk, they passed a sign that read “Welcome to Tenaha: A little town with Potential! When they returned to the highway ten minutes later, Boatright, a honey-blond “Texas redneck from Lubbock,” by her own reckoning, and Henderson, who is Latino, noticed something strange.

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One result is the rise of improbable case names such as United States v. ,037.) “The protections our Constitution usually affords are out the window,” Louis Rulli, a clinical law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a leading forfeiture expert, observes.

A piece of property does not share the rights of a person.

Or they could sign over their cash to the city of Tenaha, and get back on the road.

“No criminal charges shall be filed,” a waiver she drafted read, “and our children shall not be turned over to CPS,” or Child Protective Services.“Where are we? “Is this some kind of foreign country, where they’re selling people’s kids off?

The same police car that their eleven-year-old had admired in the mini-mart parking lot was trailing them.

Near the city limits, a tall, bull-shouldered officer named Barry Washington pulled them over.

“Be safe and keep up the good work,” the city marshal wrote to Washington, following a raft of complaints from out-of-town drivers who claimed that they had been stopped in Tenaha and stripped of cash, valuables, and, in at least one case, an infant child, without clear evidence of contraband.

Outraged by their experience in Tenaha, Jennifer Boatright and Ron Henderson helped to launch a class-action lawsuit challenging the abuse of a legal doctrine known as civil-asset forfeiture. ” Boatright asked me when I met her this spring at Houston’s H&H Saloon, where she runs Steak Night every Monday. “It’ll blow your mind.”The basic principle behind asset forfeiture is appealing.

It enables authorities to confiscate cash or property obtained through illicit means, and, in many states, funnel the proceeds directly into the fight against crime.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, cops drive a Cadillac Escalade stencilled with the words “” In Monroe, North Carolina, police recently proposed using forty-four thousand dollars in confiscated drug money to buy a surveillance drone, which might be deployed to catch fleeing suspects, conduct rescue missions, and, perhaps, seize more drug money.

Hundreds of state and federal laws authorize forfeiture for cockfighting, drag racing, basement gambling, endangered-fish poaching, securities fraud, and countless other misdeeds.