Would you assume that police could only take your hard-earned money if they could prove in court that it was related to drug sales? That would make sense, as taking assets seems like a massive step that should never be taken lightly, but that’s not how it works. Police can actually take your money on suspicion alone, long before they prove anything.

For instance, a young man was heading to college with $11,000 that he’d saved up from working part-time jobs. Rather than wasting his money, he wanted to pay his college tuition and improve his life.

At the airport, the authorities pulled his bag aside when they found the money. They claimed that the bag “smelled like marijuana.” Never mind that they searched it and did not find any illegal drugs at all. Never mind that there was no trace of hard evidence that he’d broken any laws or sold any drugs.

They still took the money, claiming it was “related to drug trafficking.” This was only because they thought that they might smell marijuana. Nothing more.

By no means is this the only story of police “legally stealing” people’s money and assets. All they really need, in many cases, is a vague suspicion that drugs may have been in some way connected to that asset. Then they can claim that drug sales happened or must have happened and they can take the asset. The standard of proof is incredibly low.

Going through something like this can be traumatic and frustrating. Make sure you are well aware of all of the legal rights that you have.