Farmer’s Savings Among Seizures that Bought Montana K-9 Unit
Lorenzo Ayala saved up $16,000 to buy tractor parts during a road trip to Montana. Instead, the state seized the Palo Alto, California, farmer's cash and put it toward the state's first K-9 unit.
Now, Montana has overhauled its regulation of police seizures to prevent more cases like Ayala's.
A state trooper who stopped Ayala in 2013 suspected the farmer's cash wad, cluttered car and his cologne were signs of drug trafficking. The trooper took the cash.
Ayala was never charged with a crime. But the state kept his money, using it to help fund the Montana Highway Patrol's first K-9 unit.
Activists call these forfeitures "policing for profit."
Beginning July 1, Montana law-enforcement officers must store suspects' assets until the owner is convicted of a crime involving that property.