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Can the police seize cash and take it all in a forfeiture action?


Yes, unfortunately, the police can seize cash and take in all in a forfeiture. As a Jacksonville criminal attorney, I have argued that this constitutes an excessive fine under the Eighth Amendment. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, on August 21, 2014, in U.S. v. Cyr, is an illustration of what not to do if the police discover a large sum of cash in your possession. Mr. Cyr, a Canadian citizen, crossed the border into the United States by airplane with $132,245. He failed to report the cash on a customs declaration form. While this seems rather minor, it's a federal crime. Nine days later, Cyr was pulled over for speeding; the cop noticed that Cyr was "extremely nervous". He then gave the cop permission to search his car (mistake number one). The cop found a bag containing $132,245. Then, with Cyr's consent, a drug dog was called in and alerted positive to the odor of a narcotic substance on the money (mistake number two). An investigator was called to the scene and began questioning Cyr about the source of the money. Cyr could not provide any documentation as to where the money came from (Cyr talking to the investigator, mistake number three).

Can my silence at the time of my arrest be used against me at trial?


No, silence at the time of arrest cannot be held against you. The courts have repeatedly held that prosecutors may not ask an accused about his post- arrest silence. Such questioning is a violation of one's Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. And this makes perfect sense. The first and most important Miranda warning, as we all know from watching TV crime dramas and movies is "You have the right to remain silent". So if an accused does remain silent, it follows that a prosecutor cannot ask that person on the witness stand, "Why did you remain silent when you were arrested and not tell the police what you are telling us now in court?" That prosecutors are not allowed to ask this question is one of the most basic rules of cross-examination. So it's surprising how often they get it wrong and do ask this question. I have seen it happen first hand as a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer.

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