Author Topic: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?  (Read 8486 times)

xenon5

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I read the following article and couldn't help but wonder how the current corrupt US laws around civil forfeiture could impact individuals planning for FIRE.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/26/us/law-lets-irs-seize-accounts-on-suspicion-no-crime-required.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=HpSum&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&gwh=A78D9A55EAB7F5154A70D0DEE897C8BD&gwt=pay&assetType=nyt_now

The quick summary of this is that the government can seize pretty much any property you own except holdings in retirement/exempt accounts with only a mere suspicion of wrongdoing.  The law enforcement officer who points the finger also gets to keep a nice chunk of the pie.

 When you deposit more than $10,000 at a time in an account, it must be reported to the IRS.  If you intentionally deposit in increments below $10,000 to avoid reporting, it's called "structuring", which is illegal.  The bank must report any depositors who look like they might be structuring.  Thanks to civil forfeiture law, there's an incentive for law enforcement to trawl through these reports for assets to seize.

It's pretty easy to "look" suspicious without doing anything wrong.  If you have a high earning couple contributing $5,000 twice a month to a shared taxable investment account, their assets could be seized on the suspicion of structuring, no proof or conviction necessary.  Even if you're contributing less, maybe $3000 per 2 weeks, your assets can still be taken if someone feels like accusing you of structuring.  There isn't a particular window for suspicion after all.

Is anyone else alarmed by this?  The possibility of this happening to me particularly is probably crazy low and I'm still a long way from making those kinds of deposits.  But it makes me feel pretty angry that this is legal.  Even if you're found innocent in court, you're going to have to sue and pay for your litigation fees to get it back, or settle for way less than they stole.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2014, 10:34:27 PM by xenon5 »

PseudoStache

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2014, 01:29:44 AM »
I believe this only refers to CASH deposits.

Malaysia41

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2014, 07:50:37 AM »
Oh that's just the tip of the civil forfeiture iceberg.  Check out this NewYorker piece from a year ago.   

The erosion of civil protections makes me fear my own government.   I don't see how it is constitutional for the state to seize property without proving a link to unlawful acts.  As much as I understand the origins of the law, as a tool to fight organized crime, the license is far too broad and incentives far too skewed. 

As an American I find the civil forfeiture laws shameful.  It's down there with Guantanamo and military sanctioned torture of prisoners.  These laws allow authorities to inflict real harm based on a presumption of guilt. 

That said, I freely transfer funds as needed - usually $10k at a time.  I always figured I'd rather make everything seem very above board (because it all is).  But I don't usually deal in cash, so I'm assuming I'm not on anybody's radar here.  But, who knows?  My transfer pattern could match some algorithmically generated criminal behavior profile and raise a flag somewhere. 
« Last Edit: October 26, 2014, 07:52:09 AM by Malaysia41 »

retired?

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2014, 08:36:07 AM »

The erosion of civil protections makes me fear my own government.   I don't see how it is constitutional for the state to seize property without proving a link to unlawful acts.  As much as I understand the origins of the law, as a tool to fight organized crime, the license is far too broad and incentives far too skewed. 


You should fear the federal government.  Vote your views in a couple weeks by choosing a non-career politician and one who does not promote "big gubment".  The powers have become far, far beyond what is necessary to carry out its purpose.

MrFancypants

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2014, 08:49:14 AM »

You should fear the federal government.  Vote your views in a couple weeks by choosing a non-career politician and one who does not promote "big gubment".  The powers have become far, far beyond what is necessary to carry out its purpose.

I'm not sure "big gubment" plays into this so much.  I think this is more about supporting candidates who are pro property rights and are willing to put a handle on law enforcement.

prof61820

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2014, 09:09:12 AM »
I believe this only refers to CASH deposits.

I think you are correct.

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2014, 09:20:02 AM »

You should fear the federal government.  Vote your views in a couple weeks by choosing a non-career politician and one who does not promote "big gubment".  The powers have become far, far beyond what is necessary to carry out its purpose.

I'm not sure "big gubment" plays into this so much.  I think this is more about supporting candidates who are pro property rights and are willing to put a handle on law enforcement.

Yes, true RE the particular topic of this post.  I was affirming the OP's fear......i.e. it is with good reason to fear govt, and "big gubment" has the most power.  I'd argue those that are pro-property rights are also less likely to be pro big govt.

mcneally

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2014, 09:26:19 AM »
I believe this only refers to CASH deposits.

Yeah, article could have made that more clear, but they are talking about $10k *cash* transactions. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bank_Secrecy_Act#Currency_Transaction_Report_.28CTR.29

prof61820

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #8 on: October 26, 2014, 09:32:02 AM »
I believe this only refers to CASH deposits.

Yeah, article could have made that more clear, but they are talking about $10k *cash* transactions. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bank_Secrecy_Act#Currency_Transaction_Report_.28CTR.29

Other than the (legal) marijuana business, how does a FIRE saver accumulate that amount of cash?

prof61820

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #9 on: October 26, 2014, 09:34:32 AM »

You should fear the federal government.  Vote your views in a couple weeks by choosing a non-career politician and one who does not promote "big gubment".  The powers have become far, far beyond what is necessary to carry out its purpose.

I'm not sure "big gubment" plays into this so much.  I think this is more about supporting candidates who are pro property rights and are willing to put a handle on law enforcement.

Yes, true RE the particular topic of this post.  I was affirming the OP's fear......i.e. it is with good reason to fear govt, and "big gubment" has the most power.  I'd argue those that are pro-property rights are also less likely to be pro big govt.


Yes, but they also tend to blindly do whatever law enforcement asks of them and law enforcement sometimes trumps property rights...

« Last Edit: October 26, 2014, 09:36:43 AM by prof61820 »

MrFancypants

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #10 on: October 26, 2014, 09:41:31 AM »
Yes, but they also tend to blindly do whatever law enforcement asks of them and law enforcement sometimes trumps property rights...

Yes, true RE the particular topic of this post.  I was affirming the OP's fear......i.e. it is with good reason to fear govt, and "big gubment" has the most power.  I'd argue those that are pro-property rights are also less likely to be pro big govt.

Except in the US the "curb law enforcement power" sentiment resides in two opposing political ideologies.  Liberals tend to maintain this sentiment, but then so do Tea Party Republicans.  Those who trend towards "pro law enforcement" with any consistency would be "standard" Republicans.

The thing I feel is confusing about your "big gubment" statement is that this sentiment pretty much resides on both sides of the aisle, the difference being that they simply disagree on which parts of government should be "big."

prof61820

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #11 on: October 26, 2014, 09:56:34 AM »
Yes, but they also tend to blindly do whatever law enforcement asks of them and law enforcement sometimes trumps property rights...

Yes, true RE the particular topic of this post.  I was affirming the OP's fear......i.e. it is with good reason to fear govt, and "big gubment" has the most power.  I'd argue those that are pro-property rights are also less likely to be pro big govt.

Except in the US the "curb law enforcement power" sentiment resides in two opposing political ideologies.  Liberals tend to maintain this sentiment, but then so do Tea Party Republicans.  Those who trend towards "pro law enforcement" with any consistency would be "standard" Republicans.

The thing I feel is confusing about your "big gubment" statement is that this sentiment pretty much resides on both sides of the aisle, the difference being that they simply disagree on which parts of government should be "big."

I think conservative Democrats also tend to be more "pro law enforcement" as well - it helps them win in "red" or "purple" districts - the only issue that "law enforcement" politicians break from law enforcement on is gun rights and this is because the NRA controls a lot of one issue voters and activists.  Because the charge "my opponent is weak on crime" currently works much better than "my opponent tramples property owners rights" (and as an aside, this can easily be countered with "my opponent supports property rights for drug dealers") , both parties tend to kow tow more to law enforcement.  Hence, we find ourselves where we   are with seizure issues, long mandatory sentences for non-violent crimes, no parole system to offer release chances for those who have been reformed and an ever-increasing "militarized" police force.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2014, 10:01:56 AM by prof61820 »

xenon5

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #12 on: October 26, 2014, 04:17:21 PM »
I believe this only refers to CASH deposits.

I realized that a while after posting, so in this particular instance there isn't a big risk.  In the end though I don't think it matters if we're talking cash or potato chips.  "Suspicion" is pretty much the same as no proof.  If a police officer points at you and yells "Witchery!" that shouldn't be enough evidence to tie you to a boulder and toss you in a river.  But as it is right now, a law officer can point at you and yell "Drug Criminal!" and take everything you own.

arebelspy

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #13 on: October 26, 2014, 08:34:23 PM »
I believe this only refers to CASH deposits.

I realized that a while after posting, so in this particular instance there isn't a big risk.  In the end though I don't think it matters if we're talking cash or potato chips.  "Suspicion" is pretty much the same as no proof.  If a police officer points at you and yells "Witchery!" that shouldn't be enough evidence to tie you to a boulder and toss you in a river.  But as it is right now, a law officer can point at you and yell "Drug Criminal!" and take everything you own.

I agree that is dumb, but to answer the question posed in the thread title: No.

Nothing to worry about.
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Johnez

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #14 on: October 27, 2014, 04:21:39 AM »
This puts a fear in my belly. These gov't administration wack jobs can ruin a family's entire generation of work on a mere suspicion, and then offer a settlement? Feels as if I'm reading stories from failed countries. I thought the highway patrols going after large sums of cash was bad, this is insane though.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2014, 04:27:23 AM by Johnez »

chasesfish

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #15 on: October 27, 2014, 04:36:40 AM »
Institutions usually have internal controls and ask questions of their clients before filing the necessary reports that trigger an investigation.

VirginiaBob

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #16 on: October 27, 2014, 07:14:55 AM »
I don't see how it is constitutional for the state to seize property without proving a link to unlawful acts.

You must not pay taxes.

MrFancypants

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #17 on: October 27, 2014, 07:19:03 AM »
I don't see how it is constitutional for the state to seize property without proving a link to unlawful acts.

You must not pay taxes.

I suppose the distinction is blurred somewhat because taxes are generally pulled from paychecks without you doing anything, but there is a difference between a tax and a seizure.

brooklynguy

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #18 on: October 27, 2014, 09:29:07 AM »
I don't think this is really a concern for people simply saving large amounts on a path to FIRE.  But, for those of us engaged in credit card churning and manufactured spending, it could be more of an issue.  Cash equivalents (in addition to cash) could raise red flags.  See this flyertalk thread for a detailed discussion:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/manufactured-spending/1438710-suspicious-activity-reports-irs-when-buying-depositing-money-orders-2.html

arebelspy

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #19 on: October 27, 2014, 09:57:56 AM »
I don't see how it is constitutional for the state to seize property without proving a link to unlawful acts.

You must not pay taxes.

Not paying your taxes is an unlawful act.  So it would make sense that they could lien/seize property in that circumstance.

Seizing it when not linked to an unlawful act is what we have an issue with.
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BlueMR2

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #20 on: October 27, 2014, 10:05:34 AM »
I believe this only refers to CASH deposits.

Yeah, article could have made that more clear, but they are talking about $10k *cash* transactions. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bank_Secrecy_Act#Currency_Transaction_Report_.28CTR.29

Ah, OK.  I heard about this quite awhile back and have made a point to transfer more than $10k when I would have otherwise done 8-9k, specifically so I *would* trigger a paperwork trail and not have people thinking I was trying to avoid the checks.  However, since I don't ever have that kind of cash and it's just bank transfers, I guess it was wasted effort.  :-)

Foggier

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #21 on: October 27, 2014, 11:01:57 PM »
This only matters when dealing with cash deposits and cash on your person/vehicle.

Civil asset forfeiture is a very real thing and the United States does indeed resemble a corrupt failed state more and more these days. There's even a John Oliver comedy bit about it www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kEpZWGgJks

If you get pulled over make sure you don't fold and know your rights and refuse to consent to a search, state you do not wish to answer any questions, and ask to be on your way - 'am I free to go or am I being detained'.

arebelspy

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #22 on: October 28, 2014, 07:21:04 AM »
They can generally detain you for 24 hours without cause.  And will, if you're being a dick.  And/or it'll turn into a "resisting arrest" arrest.
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frugalnacho

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #23 on: October 28, 2014, 07:51:27 AM »
As bullshit as the civil forfeiture laws are, couldn't all these people with non-illegal sources of income simply show the paper work proving they earned that money? 

johnhenry

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #24 on: October 28, 2014, 08:09:19 AM »
Oh that's just the tip of the civil forfeiture iceberg.  Check out this NewYorker piece from a year ago.   

The erosion of civil protections makes me fear my own government.   I don't see how it is constitutional for the state to seize property without proving a link to unlawful acts.  As much as I understand the origins of the law, as a tool to fight organized crime, the license is far too broad and incentives far too skewed. 

As an American I find the civil forfeiture laws shameful.  It's down there with Guantanamo and military sanctioned torture of prisoners.  These laws allow authorities to inflict real harm based on a presumption of guilt. 

That said, I freely transfer funds as needed - usually $10k at a time.  I always figured I'd rather make everything seem very above board (because it all is).  But I don't usually deal in cash, so I'm assuming I'm not on anybody's radar here.  But, who knows?  My transfer pattern could match some algorithmically generated criminal behavior profile and raise a flag somewhere.

Just wanted to say I love reading your posts!

johnhenry

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #25 on: October 28, 2014, 08:25:46 AM »
I don't see how it is constitutional for the state to seize property without proving a link to unlawful acts.

You must not pay taxes.

Wow.  So much ignorance!!

A) if our government didn't have the authority to tax and collect it effectively.... your money wouldn't be worth anything!!  Taxes drive money.

B) our government doesn't need your money or mine to fund it's purpose.  It needs real goods and services from it's citizens to do it's work.

C) Instead of directly demanding labor or material from it's citizens to achieve it's purpose, our government taxes each of us in dollars, which it then creates so that there exists something with which we can pay our taxes.

D) no one has ever paid a dollar in tax that our government didn't first create.

E) If there was no national deficit, none of us would have any money.


oldtoyota

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #26 on: October 28, 2014, 08:27:36 AM »
I'm glad you brought this up. Yes, civil forfeiture alarms me ever since I learned about it in The New Yorker. I posted about this topic on this very forum quite some time ago. I read about how a sheriff threatened to TAKE A CHILD from his parents unless the parents paid $$.

You can have your home taken because someone else smokes illegal drugs--even if you did not know they were doing it and do not do it yourself or condone it.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2014, 08:32:10 AM by oldtoyota »

johnhenry

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #27 on: October 28, 2014, 08:55:01 AM »
I believe this only refers to CASH deposits.

I realized that a while after posting, so in this particular instance there isn't a big risk.  In the end though I don't think it matters if we're talking cash or potato chips.  "Suspicion" is pretty much the same as no proof.  If a police officer points at you and yells "Witchery!" that shouldn't be enough evidence to tie you to a boulder and toss you in a river.  But as it is right now, a law officer can point at you and yell "Drug Criminal!" and take everything you own.

I agree that is dumb, but to answer the question posed in the thread title: No.

Nothing to worry about.

I'd agree that statistically, the chances of getting involved in a situation where your assets were seized is unlikely.  But it is alarming nonetheless.  I've thought about this a lot lately, because over the past several months, we have traveled by car a couple hours from home to look at used cars listed for sale by owner in the bigger cities near us.  Consider these facts:

a) I'm carrying cash.  Usually right around $10K.  I'd like to take a cashier's check made out to the seller, but since I'm looking at more than one vehicle, I take cash.  Plus, as many mustachians will point out... paying in cash can often yield a good deal.

b) I'm driving an older car, worth hardly anything.  One that a cop could reasonably be considered a "burner".  Meaning one specifically driven so little value is lost if the vehicle is confiscated.

c) The cities to which I travel are in different states than where my car is registered.

If I were pulled over for a traffic violation, those items together would be more than enough for law enforcement to declare it suspicious and seize both the cash and the car!!  In a way, I think mustachians are more likely than others (except those actually dealing in cash and illegal items) to find themselves in this situation.

arebelspy

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #28 on: October 28, 2014, 09:29:03 AM »
I believe this only refers to CASH deposits.

I realized that a while after posting, so in this particular instance there isn't a big risk.  In the end though I don't think it matters if we're talking cash or potato chips.  "Suspicion" is pretty much the same as no proof.  If a police officer points at you and yells "Witchery!" that shouldn't be enough evidence to tie you to a boulder and toss you in a river.  But as it is right now, a law officer can point at you and yell "Drug Criminal!" and take everything you own.

I agree that is dumb, but to answer the question posed in the thread title: No.

Nothing to worry about.

I'd agree that statistically, the chances of getting involved in a situation where your assets were seized is unlikely.  But it is alarming nonetheless.  I've thought about this a lot lately, because over the past several months, we have traveled by car a couple hours from home to look at used cars listed for sale by owner in the bigger cities near us.  Consider these facts:

a) I'm carrying cash.  Usually right around $10K.  I'd like to take a cashier's check made out to the seller, but since I'm looking at more than one vehicle, I take cash.  Plus, as many mustachians will point out... paying in cash can often yield a good deal.

b) I'm driving an older car, worth hardly anything.  One that a cop could reasonably be considered a "burner".  Meaning one specifically driven so little value is lost if the vehicle is confiscated.

c) The cities to which I travel are in different states than where my car is registered.

If I were pulled over for a traffic violation, those items together would be more than enough for law enforcement to declare it suspicious and seize both the cash and the car!!  In a way, I think mustachians are more likely than others (except those actually dealing in cash and illegal items) to find themselves in this situation.

The question in the title wasn't about civil seizure of assets, but about deposit structuring.

We branched out to talk about that as well, but again, just addressing the first concern/thread title: No. It's not something to worry about.

Your situation I probably still wouldn't worry about, but it is something to be aware of.
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Foggier

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #29 on: October 28, 2014, 09:37:39 AM »
Actually driving an older beater probably helps. If they see that they probably think you're too poor to bother robbing....err 'civil asset forfeiture'-ing   you.

Foggier

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #30 on: October 28, 2014, 09:59:52 AM »
They can generally detain you for 24 hours without cause.  And will, if you're being a dick.  And/or it'll turn into a "resisting arrest" arrest.

I think this attitude is toxic for civil liberties in this country - I do not think I am 'being a dick' for asserting my rights. I'm sure most cops are genuinely good people out to catch actual bad guys, but how do you know you didn't run into a corrupt one that likes to civil asset forfeit people? The US Code has tens of thousands of pages - who the hell knows what laws are in there and how do you know, if you consent to a search, that they don't find some silly thing to charge you with?

Obviously, I would not resist arrest and would get out of the car when asked (required). No, they cannot detain you for 24hrs without a shred of credible probable cause. If they still do it, they will hear from my attorney.

johnhenry

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #31 on: October 28, 2014, 10:10:33 AM »
Actually driving an older beater probably helps. If they see that they probably think you're too poor to bother robbing....err 'civil asset forfeiture'-ing   you.

Well.... sort of.  Driving a beater, especially if I'm driving alone as opposed to with my family, makes it more likely to get pulled over in the first place.  If they don't find any cash, I may be on my way.  But if they find cash, that's a different story.   Just carrying cash warrants enough suspicion for them to confiscate it, even if they don't want the car....

See the last example in this article.  This man had his car returned, but not his cash.

http://www.gainesvilletimes.com/section/6/article/105524/

johnhenry

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #32 on: October 28, 2014, 10:25:16 AM »
They can generally detain you for 24 hours without cause.  And will, if you're being a dick.  And/or it'll turn into a "resisting arrest" arrest.

I think this attitude is toxic for civil liberties in this country - I do not think I am 'being a dick' for asserting my rights. I'm sure most cops are genuinely good people out to catch actual bad guys, but how do you know you didn't run into a corrupt one that likes to civil asset forfeit people? The US Code has tens of thousands of pages - who the hell knows what laws are in there and how do you know, if you consent to a search, that they don't find some silly thing to charge you with?

Obviously, I would not resist arrest and would get out of the car when asked (required). No, they cannot detain you for 24hrs without a shred of credible probable cause. If they still do it, they will hear from my attorney.

I completely agree about this being toxic for civil liberties!!  But to me, it's the "system" that needs to change, not JUST attitudes.  Yea, sometimes cops are going to "profile" because they really do want to target a specific group.  But sometimes they may "target" just because they are pursuing a strategy (they innocently think) likely to yield results (arrest of someone breaking the law).

I'm not justifying any profiling that goes on!!  The problem isn't so much "bad cops".  It's a system that allows law enforcement departments to be funded by seized assets!!  The perverse incentives are obvious.  And the problem isn't just with assets seized from the completely innocent.  Even if someone has a bag of dope or a pipe in their vehicle it doesn't mean they should be at risk of losing their cash and their vehicle.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2014/09/06/stop-and-seize/


EastCoastMike

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Re: Are FIRE savers at risk of setting off false deposit structuring alarms?
« Reply #33 on: October 28, 2014, 10:35:51 AM »
How exactly do we notify the IRS about deposits?  Is it just sending them an email or some long, involved, opaque series of poorly worded, indecipherable forms to be filled out in triplicate and filed with 5 different agencies?