A sheriff in Texas is accused of regularly ordering his deputies to seize cash and vehicles from undocumented immigrants during traffic stops, even if they were not stopped for an alleged crime, reports the Washington Post. Real County Sheriff Nathan Johnson is under investigation after the Texas Rangers and the Texas Attorney General’s Office raided four locations last month connected to the sheriff’s office. Johnson acknowledged that money was regularly seized from undocumented immigrants by deputies during traffic stops before the people were handed over to Border Patrol agents. Ricardo Guajardo, the Texas Ranger investigating the case, is accusing Johnson of felony theft by a public servant and abuse of official capacity. Guajardo said the regular seizures of cash, as well as one instance involving the seizure of a pickup truck, violated the state’s civil-asset forfeiture laws. It’s unclear whether charges will be brought against Johnson. Police in Texas can take cash and other property believed to be related to some kind of criminal activity, even if the person involved is never charged with a crime, said Arif Panju of the Institute for Justice, a legal organization opposing civil-asset forfeiture. Under Texas’s civil-asset forfeiture law, prosecutors must file lawsuits for police to keep possession of seized assets. Civil-asset forfeiture laws allow local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to seize personal property without proving or even charging the owner with a crime. The agencies then can sell the property and add the proceeds to their budgets.
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