This week, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas signaled his belief that civil asset forfeiture laws have strayed too far from their narrow historical precedent and questioned whether “modern civil-forfeiture statutes can be squared with the Due Process Clause and our nation’s history.”
James Leonard, the petitioner’s son, was stopped for a traffic violation along what Thomas’s statement describes as a “known drug corridor.” Leonard’s vehicle was subjected to a search, which turned up a safe in the trunk.
Officers reported that Leonard and his passenger gave “conflicting stories” as to its contents, though Leonard noted it belonged to his mother, Lisa Leonard. Police executed a search warranted, discovered $201,100 in cash and “a bill of sale for a Pennsylvania home” inside, and seized the funds as alleged drug proceeds.
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