Iowa City police seized $48,000 in cash from a Minnesota couple during a traffic stop in March. They want it back – but that's been proving difficult, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reports.
The publication says Kearnice C. Overton, of St. Paul, was pulled over March 16 for speeding. Overton's kids were in the car at the time. Police say a K-9 signal gave them the authority to search the car, the Press-Citizen reports. So they did, found the $48,000 in cash, and seized it.
Overton says he got the money from his wife, Tiffani D.S. Barber, to buy some property in Iowa; he drove down there, the deal fell through so he was on his way home.
Barber and Overton filed a petition stating the money was wrongly seized – no charges were filed, Overton was not arrested, and he claims it wasn't illegally earned – and they want it back, the Press-Citizen reports.
But things have become more complicated: The Press-Citizen now reports the cash is part of a federal investigation.
According to the paper, court documents filed Monday show the money is no longer being held by Iowa authorities – but the files offer no details on what the federal investigation is about.
The Press-Citizen notes a hearing regarding the seized cash is still set for May 6.
A similar story of police seizure turned out well for a Moorhead woman.
WCCO reported on a tip received by waitress Stacy Knutson back in 2012 – rolls of cash, left in a box at a table she was serving, totaling $12,000.
The mother of five called police to notify them, the station reported; police said they'd hold it for 90 days in case it was claimed. But when Knutson tried to get it back, she was told it was now being held as drug money.
In April, Knutson's attorney said Moorhead police had agreed to give back the entire sum, the station reported.
Last year, The New Yorker published a lengthy piece about civil forfeiture and its increased use across the country. Seizing illicitly-gained money can be appealing, the publication noted, because it can oftentimes be used right away by law enforcement to help combat crime.
"In Tulsa, Oklahoma, cops drive a Cadillac Escalade stenciled with the words 'This Used To Be a Drug Dealer’s Car, Now It’s Ours!''" the piece said. "In Monroe, North Carolina, police recently proposed using forty-four thousand dollars in confiscated drug money to buy a surveillance drone ... "
And unlike a criminal forfeiture, which can only happen if a person is convicted, a civil forfeiture can occur even if you haven't been found guilty.