Justices agree to hear dispute over gamblers' seized money

WASHINGTON Mon Mar 4, 2013 10:09am EST

The U.S. Supreme Court building seen in Washington May 20, 2009. REUTERS/Molly Riley

The U.S. Supreme Court building seen in Washington May 20, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Molly Riley

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to consider whether two professional gamblers can pursue a lawsuit against a Drug Enforcement Administration officer after their winnings were confiscated by him at an airport.

On August 8, 2006, Gina Fiore and Keith Gipson were switching planes in Atlanta following a gambling trip when they were detained by several DEA agents. The gamblers were carrying a total of $97,000 in cash.

The agents - including Anthony Walden, the only one identified by name and the only one involved in the Supreme Court case - seized the cash based on the suspicion that it may have been connected to drug transactions.

Fiore and Gipson later sued Walden and the other, unidentified agents in federal court in Nevada, claiming their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures had been violated.

Their winnings were eventually returned.

The legal issue in the case is whether the Nevada court had jurisdiction to hear a case that solely concerned conduct that took place in Georgia. The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the gamblers.

A decision is expected in the court's next term, which begins in October and runs until June 2014.

The case is Walden v. Fiore, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-574.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller)

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Comments (3)
DT60093 wrote:
The US has become a police state. No doubt about it.

Mar 04, 2013 10:37am EST  --  Report as abuse
FatherJames wrote:
…While it may be hard to get up much sympathy for gamblers (even legal ones) the issue is massively important to all Americans. “Civil seizures” are a way around the Bill of Rights.

…Law enforcement authorities find “excess cash” (can be as little as $1000.) on you and unless you have a bank withdrawl slip or the like on you, they can seize it on the “theory” that it may well be ill gotten drug money. Some jurisdictions go farther and announce that “some” of the bills had “traces of cocaine…” A large amount of the cash in circulation in the U.S. routinely has “traces” of cocaine.

…They are not arresting *you* but rather taking a “civil” action against your money. You have no real rights except to a receipt for the confiscated funds. From that point the burden of proof is on *you* to prove to a court that the cash came recently from a bank or the like… If you have been saving money under your mattress and are then “caught” with it… you are out of luck. Without instant documentation or a very high priced lawyer, most money so confiscated is never returned… In most jurisdictions there is very little time in which to act. In this case it seems that the government’s intent is to increase the difficulty… ok to go to a Federal Court… but only in the state where you were traveling…

…In many jurisdictions the funds so impounded go directly to the law enforcement agency that took a “civil” action against it. Thus, cash strapped departments have a real incentive to behave like the Sheriff of Nottingham’s men on the road.

…Famous attorney F. Lee Baily once voiced the opinion that any American with more than $500. in cash on him should be placed in prison. Too hard, so they go for the money which has no “rights…”

…It is disturbing that there are many documented cases out there where decent people with no criminal record have had their life savings confiscated because the authorites disliked the amount of cash in the mason jar. If all of these people were really drug dealers, you would expect law enforcement to massively investigate them… but in a disturbing number of documented cases the money is seized, no wants or warrants are found and the person is sent on… without the money or real recourse…

…If the U.S. wants to make it a crime to posess more than a certain amount of cash… then it needs to place a bill doing that in the hands of the Congress… not just permit random “civil seizures…”

Mar 04, 2013 1:10pm EST  --  Report as abuse
theDrooog wrote:
Anyone willing to bet on the outcome?

Mar 06, 2013 8:19pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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