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A guerra às drogas, nos EUA como cá, tem sido motivo de erosão de direitos dos cidadãos constante (igualzinho uma guerra de verdade, como diria o caubói da maconha com Paraquat, do Feiffer). Uma das belezuras da sua versão americana (em que, por outro lado, a execução imediata de "inimigos" é umas sete vezes menos comum do que aqui) é a possibilidade de a polícia apreender (e guardar pra si, inclusive distribuindo a parte em dinheiro como "incentivos") bens de suspeitos. Veja bem, não condenados. Suspeitos. Bem, até essa definição tá sujeita a ampliações. Pelo menos se você for mexicano, já que não imagino a polícia, ao revistar um Hummer dirigido pelo Ken Lay, confiscasse a grana. Como diria minha tia-avó, ainda bem que eu sou branquinho.

PS Ignorem o "o" em Gonzalez...

Eighth Circuit Appeals Court ruling says police may seize cash from motorists even in the absence of any evidence that a crime has been committed.

US Court of Appeals, Eighth CircuitA federal appeals court ruled yesterday that if a motorist is carrying large sums of money, it is automatically subject to confiscation. In the case entitled, "United States of America v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency," the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit took that amount of cash away from Emiliano Gomez Gonzolez, a man with a "lack of significant criminal history" neither accused nor convicted of any crime.

On May 28, 2003, a Nebraska state trooper signaled Gonzolez to pull over his rented Ford Taurus on Interstate 80. The trooper intended to issue a speeding ticket, but noticed the Gonzolez's name was not on the rental contract. The trooper then proceeded to question Gonzolez -- who did not speak English well -- and search the car. The trooper found a cooler containing $124,700 in cash, which he confiscated. A trained drug sniffing dog barked at the rental car and the cash. For the police, this was all the evidence needed to establish a drug crime that allows the force to keep the seized money.

Associates of Gonzolez testified in court that they had pooled their life savings to purchase a refrigerated truck to start a produce business. Gonzolez flew on a one-way ticket to Chicago to buy a truck, but it had sold by the time he had arrived. Without a credit card of his own, he had a third-party rent one for him. Gonzolez hid the money in a cooler to keep it from being noticed and stolen. He was scared when the troopers began questioning him about it. There was no evidence disputing Gonzolez's story.

Yesterday the Eighth Circuit summarily dismissed Gonzolez's story. It overturned a lower court ruling that had found no evidence of drug activity, stating, "We respectfully disagree and reach a different conclusion... Possession of a large sum of cash is 'strong evidence' of a connection to drug activity."

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