One specialty of the Berry Law, is the defense of persons charged with drug trafficking along the Intestate in Nebraska. It is very common for an eastbound vehicle in Nebraska to be pulled over, and the driver arrested and cited for possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver the same. Depending on the substance involved, the crime carries a possible penalty of up to 50 years in prison.
That should come as a surprise to no one.
What we have noticed in the last couple of years, however, is a large increase in the number of people arrested, and thrown in jail for alleged crimes, which are based on nothing more than the desire for easy money, and the perception that Nebraska must force its laws on other states. Moreover, these poor souls who are being arrested and thrown in jail, are being deprived not only of their liberty, but also of millions of their dollars. This is due to what is essentially organized crime in Nebraska. But it is not the Gambino Family, nor the Gotti Family running this racket. Rather, it is the County Attorneys of the various counties in Nebraska, along with their respective Sheriffs, and the Nebraska State Patrol.
The “crime” these people are accused of, is the simple possession of money. Here is what is happening.
As you may be aware, Colorado has made recreational marijuana use legal within the State of Colorado. Colorado borders Nebraska to the west. Naturally then, there are a fair number of people driving west across Nebraska, cash in hand (or in glove box, or a hidden compartment in the gas tank) in order to purchase marijuana in Colorado and drive back east to sell or use the product.
Inevitably, some of these people will be pulled over by the Sheriff or State Patrol as they drive west through Nebraska, usually for some alleged traffic violation which is all but impossible to disprove (such as following too close to the vehicle they are following). This traffic stop gives rise to a search of the vehicle, where a “large” amount of cash is found. Here’s the rub – if the occupant(s) of the vehicle are carrying an amount of cash the investigating officer finds to be unusually large, then no matter what, the motorist is going to be arrested, and charged with the possession of money intended to be used to violate the Nebraska Controlled Substances Act.
Yes. Law enforcement will assume, in the absolute lack of any evidence other than the presence of cash that the person is going to use that money to purchase illegal drugs.
Even in situations where there is no evidence that any of the occupants actually possess a controlled substance, they will be arrested. Even if there is no evidence that any of the occupants plan to possess a controlled substance in Nebraska, the will be arrested. At that point, what usually happens (and what will probably continue to happen despite a recent proclamation by Attorney General Eric Holder), is the money is forfeited to the federal government (more on that later) and the State of Nebraska pushes forward criminal charges.
Criminal charges for what? Criminal charges on the theory that it is a crime in Nebraska to possess money which is intended to be used to commit an act in another state, which if that act were committed in Nebraska, would be a crime, even though it is legal in the other state.
Confused? So am I. People who carry large amounts of cash, for whatever reason, are automatically assumed to be headed to someplace to purchase drugs which are illegal in Nebraska. Even if the person is on the way to buy a business with cash, there will be an assumption by law enforcement that the person is a criminal, and plans on buying drugs. For that matter, even if the person is carrying cash intended to be used in some other activity which is illegal in Nebraska (such as arson for hire), law enforcement will presume the person is carrying the money to buy drugs.
Apparently, the law enforcement authorities in Nebraska believe that if you are carrying money through Nebraska: 1) You are going to buy drugs; and 2) Even if the drug is legal wherever it is you are going to purchase it, you are breaking Nebraska law for carrying cash intended to be used to buy the drugs it is assumed you are going to buy, even though there is no evidence of what the drug is, or where you were going to buy the drug.
The technical crime is possession of money intended to be used to violate the Nebraska Controlled Substances Act. That act, of course, prohibits the possession of various substances, in Nebraska. It is not a violation of Nebraska law to possess any substance in Colorado. I have yet to figure out, how then, it is a crime to possess money in Nebraska when the money is intended to be used to purchase a substance which is legal in Colorado.
Under this theory of crime, the State Patrol should arrest every person who is at the airport in Omaha, or Grand Island, on a direct flight to Las Vegas. After all, gambling is illegal in Nebraska. By getting on a plane to Las Vegas, under the reasoning used by law enforcement concerning large amounts of cash, the person is undoubtedly committing the crime of attempted gambling in Nebraska. Of course, I do not see that happening anytime soon. I cannot imagine law enforcement making the leap that everyone on a plane to Las Vegas is going to gamble. And even if everyone was going to gamble, I cannot imagine anyone being arrested for the same.
However, there is a big difference between the person going to gamble, and the person carrying cash on the interstate: The money. Remember when I said the money seized would be forfeited to the federal government? The federal government and the states actually share in the proceeds of the seized money, further incentivizing the County Attorneys, the Sheriffs, and the State Patrol to conspire to commit theft.