Often in Lancaster, Seward, and York Counties, the state patrol or deputy sheriff will stop vehicles traveling west hoping to uncover and find large amounts of cash. Law enforcement will then claim that this cash is currency used or to be used in a drug transaction. Not only is the cash seized, but the defendant is charged with a Class IV felony carrying a term of up to five years in prison.
Often in these cases law enforcement establishes that the cash seized was used or to be used in a drug transaction through cell phone records, statement of the defendant, or a search of the vehicle which may turn up scales, baggies, large suitcases with drug residue, and other documentation of drug transactions such as buy and sell transactions.
Often after the vehicle has been stopped and the passenger and driver have been questioned, law enforcement then attempts to gain consent to search the vehicle. If law enforcement does not have consent to search the vehicle, they will often contact a drug dog, otherwise known as a police service dog, to search the vehicle to determine if there is an odor of narcotics.
It is important to note that the narcotics dog cannot single out any particular drug and is usually trained to sniff multiple drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin. If the dog indicates to the odor of narcotics, the vehicle will be searched. Often when these searches occur in vehicles traveling west, no contraband is found, only large amounts of cash. Law enforcement then claims that the money and/or containers found in the vehicles had the odor of marijuana in them.
However, what the government and most law enforcement officials fail to realize is that the defendant has the right to independently test the cash for the odor of drugs as well. Unfortunately, law enforcement usually destroys the evidence prior to giving the defendant the opportunity to independently test the currency for the odor of narcotics.
Law enforcement does not destroy the cash. Instead the cash is taken to a bank and placed into an account and then the cash is recirculated. The problem is once the cash is recirculated into the stream of commerce the defendant does not get the opportunity to test it for the odor of narcotics. In a recent case in Lincoln, an attorney from Berry Law Firm was able to argue that without the right to independently test the cash, the evidence could be kept out. The judge agreed that there is a right to an independent test and some of the evidence pertaining to the “odor” of marijuana was not permitted at trial.