‘Give This Man His Money’: NC Judge Holds Mooresville Police Department in Contempt of Court for Failing to Fulfill Order Return $17,000 Illegally Seized from Suspect’s Car

MOORESVILLE – Judge Christine Underwood held the Mooresville Police Department, in contempt of court and said she isn’t afraid to jail the ‘board of commissioners, the chief of police, or anyone else’ responsible for fulfilling the order after they ‘willfully did not comply’ with a previous order to return thousands of dollars they illegally seized from a man last year.

As it were, law and order means following the law and Mooresville Police Department apparently didn’t do that when they searched Jermaine Sanders’ car and confiscated nearly $17,000 in cash that was never tied to any criminal charges.

Sanders’ attorney successfully argued that he was not in the car, never gave consent to search it, and that the local police department has no right to take (and spend) his money without due process. The judge ordered the money returned. The Mooresville Police Department spent it instead, and Judge Underwood wasn’t too pleased.

From the Hickory Daily Record:

“[…] Judge Christine Underwood held up the previous court ruling that the $16,761 taken from Jermaine Sanders’ car needed to be returned, and that the police department “willfully did not comply” with that order, putting it and Mooresville’s government in contempt.

“Give this man his money,” Underwood said during the hearing.

Underwood said she is giving Mooresville seven business days to return the money. She noted she wouldn’t be afraid to jail the board of commissioners, the chief of police, or anyone else who would be considered responsible for returning the money to Sanders, but that would be something used as a last resort if the town did not comply. […]

Underwood said Mooresville was ordered to purge itself of the contempt by returning the money within seven business days once they receive the order officially from the court.

“I don’t have a problem with locking up whoever is responsible for returning the money to Mr. Sanders,” Underwood said. […]”

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This is a real time example the abuse of search and seizure practices that fuel civil asset forfeiture policies of local and federal law enforcement, and it happens to run afoul of a little thing called the U.S. Constitution.

After seizing the cash, the police department gave it to a federal agency (US Border Patrol), even though they knew a court case on the seizure was imminent. When Sanders’ attorney contacted the police department about its return, she was told she’d have to take it up with the federal agency and that they weren’t responsible for getting it back to her client.

Not our problem,’ they essentially said, ‘we just stole the money, we’re not responsible for it once we hand it to the Feds.’

As such, Sanders’ attorney lauded the judge’s stern defense of the law, and her client’s individual right. She also correctly pointed out how these practices are used and abused across the country to illegally confiscate, hold on to, and spend money (cars, jewelry, etc.) from people that when it isn’t connected to any crime.

It’s a shakedown under the guise of funding law and order. This time, at least, there was someone to remind the parties of the Constitution’s supremacy over local and federal ‘calling dibs’ on other people’s money.

Read more about the case here.

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