Thomas G. WitkopLaw Offices

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County loses forfeiture claim against alleged drug dealer

My client made the unfortunate mistake of consoling a drug user and almost lost several thousand dollars for his efforts. No good deed goes unpunished.

My client was minding his own business when he pulled up to a convenience store. He saw a friend who he knew was having problems and began speaking with the friend. After a few minutes he went back into his own vehicle. This was under the watchful eyes of the police who concluded that a drug deal had just occurred. They stopped the friend who had a very small quantity of cocaine on him and claimed that my client just sold them to him for several hundred dollars. (Don't get me started on false confessions).

They stopped my client and found several thousand dollars in cash upon him. There were no drugs with my client or in his car.  They charged him with distribution of drugs anyway. They also seized the cash. The distribution charges were eventually dismissed but they held onto the cash.

The county prosecutor offered me a deal: they keep 90% of the cash and my client keeps 10% of the cash. I told the county prosecutor we were on the same page but my client keeps 90% of the cash and the county gets 10% of the cash. We did not work out a deal.

At the forfeiture trial the county had the officers testify as to what they saw and what they recovered. The alleged buyer of the drugs was not available to testify but they had a written statement which came into evidence over my objection as a declaration against penal interest. In that statement it said that my client sold the buyer the drugs for several hundred dollars. The officers testified how they found the cash on my client in various packets and how that was consistent with drug dealing. Interestingly, none of the packets were for several hundred dollars. We presented evidence that my client was a businessman and we produced tax returns showing that he had a cash business. We were able to explain why he had several thousand dollars.

At the end of the trial the judge awarded the county 10% of the money and returned 90% of the money to my client.

If the government ever seizes your cash, car or house and attempts to forfeit it for the benefit of the state, you have rights. You should contact my office so that I can help protect your rights.
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