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Judge supports denying rehearing, but disagrees with colleagues’ rationale

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a man’s petition for rehearing and for a rehearing en banc after the court originally upheld the seizure of thousands of dollars following a traffic stop. But one judge did write to explain that she disagreed with her fellow panel members’ rationale for originally affirming the seizure.

Michael D. Weir complained that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when a police officer seized $6,655 from him during a traffic stop. The car was originally pulled over after police observed Weir, a front seat passenger, not wearing his seatbelt. The police found the driver didn’t have a valid license or plates for the car, and decided to impound it. A pat down of Weir revealed a pocket knife, and while performing the pat down, the officer felt what appeared to be a large amount of cash.

The officer seized the cash, but allowed Weir to leave the scene. The driver was arrested and charged with possession of stolen property and possession of drug paraphernalia based on evidence found at the traffic stop. The driver later implicated Weir in a drug conspiracy, to which he implicated himself further after his arrest.

“I agree with Weir that the officer did not have probable cause to seize the cash at the time the officer effected the seizure,” Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner wrote.

“The opinion concludes that the officers could seize the money because Weir was the passenger in a stolen car, and because they later discovered the digital scales in that car. But at the time the officer seized the cash, the officer had no evidence connecting Weir or the cash to criminal activity,” she continued. “That the officer later learned that the car was stolen and that it contained drug paraphernalia cannot retroactively justify the seizure.”

But she found even if seizure of the cash was error it was not plain error. The outcome of the case would have been the same if the cash wasn’t seized because it was the cash’s discovery that led to Weir’s downfall.

“Once the cash was legitimately discovered, alea iacta est. I therefore concur in the denial of the petition for rehearing, but I do not endorse the rationale used in the opinion to justify the seizure,” she wrote in United States of America v. Michael D. Weir, 11-3321.

 

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