Ameal Woods set off for Houston in May 2019 to buy a second tractor-trailer and expand his trucking business. His family had saved more than $40,000 to make the dream a reality, but as Woods drove through Harris County, red and blue lights flashed behind him.
A sheriff’s deputy accused Woods of following a truck too closely. The deputy didn’t give him a ticket, but he did take all of Woods’ cash.
This week, the state of Texas is heading to court to make sure Woods never gets his life savings back.
“Any time you have a financial incentive for law enforcement to take money, it’s going to create that incentive for them to do so, whether there’s crime or not,” criminal defense attorney Joseph Tully told Fox News.
Tully is not involved with Woods’ case, but he weighed in on the legal implications.
A deputy seized Woods’ money in a process known as civil asset forfeiture. It’s meant to punish and deter criminal activity by depriving criminals of property that is used in or acquired through illegal activities. But critics say it’s often abused by police and prosecutors and treats anyone who carries a large amount of cash as guilty.
The deputy said Woods’ cash was connected to drugs, but he was never ticketed, cited or arrested for a crime, argue lawyers for the nonprofit Institute for Justice, which is representing the Mississippi native.
The trial starts Monday in Harris County – four years and one day after the seizure – in State of Texas v. Approximately $41,680.00.
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