Can the police arrest you because you have cash on you? 31 Answers as of May 18, 2011

My friend was arrested because he had cash. They searched him because he has a criminal background. Is that an illegal search?

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LynchLaw
LynchLaw | Michael Thomas Lynch
Your question raises a host of other questions. Can you be arrested? Yes. Will you be convicted? Maybe. Was the cash his? Is your friend on probation and subject to search and seizure? If so the search could be lawful.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 5/18/2011
Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC
Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC | Lacy Fields
Absolutely not based on what you told me. Officers must have probable cause to believe a crime is being committed before they may arrest someone. However, I suspect either a) there is more to the story, or b) the officers involved are not going to be honest about the circumstances of the arrest.
Answer Applies to: Missouri
Replied: 5/17/2011
Law Office of Joseph A. Katz
Law Office of Joseph A. Katz | Joseph A. Katz
You did not provide enough information to give you a detailed answer, but possession of cash is not a valid basis for a non-consensual, non-warranted search. If he had individually packaged amounts of controlled substance on him, the arrest and search might be a different matter. Having "a criminal background", as you put it, is not a basis for a search. If your friend was on probation or parole, that would be a different matter.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 5/17/2011
Law Office of Phillip Weiser
Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
It is not illegal to have cash in one's possession. There must be other reasons for the arrest. The search must comply with the 4th amendment so far as being legal or not. Ultimately the judge is charged with this decision after hearing evidence.
Answer Applies to: Kansas
Replied: 5/17/2011
Andersen Law PLLC
Andersen Law PLLC | Craig Andersen
That depends on all of the circumstances observed or known by the arresting officer. For example if the officer observes what his training and experience tell him is drug activity, the officer may pat down a suspect for weapons and contraband. IF the officer feels anything like drugs, paraphernalia or possible weapons, the officer can go into the pocket where he suspects the weapon or drugs are. If the suspect has an active warrant, the officer can arrest the suspect and search him incident to arrest. In that situation, the officer doesn't have to do a pat down, he can simply search the suspect and arrest him or her. If the suspect is arrested in connection with a vehicle, the officer can also search around the immediate area of the driver; including the center console and the glove compartment if it is unlocked. So the short answer is it depends. If his or her money was seized, he or she will want to make sure to put in a claim with the arresting officer's department as soon as possible and to request a hearing. If you have any further questions or comments, please feel free to contact me.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 5/17/2011
    Nelson & Lawless
    Nelson & Lawless | Terry Nelson
    Can they arrest him? Of course. They did, didnt they? They will if they think they have grounds to do so. Of course you can fight it. When arrested or charged with any crime, the proper questions are, can any evidence obtained in a search or confession be used against you, and can you be convicted, and what can you do? Raise all possible defenses with whatever admissible and credible witnesses, evidence and facts are available for legal arguments, for evidence suppression or other motions, or at trial. While this isn't a 'capital case', you certainly face potential jail and fines, so handle it right. Effective plea-bargaining, using those defenses, could possibly keep you out of jail, or at least dramatically reduce it. Go to trial if it can't be resolved with motions or a plea bargain. There is no magic wand to wave and make it all disappear. Not exactly a do it yourself project in court for someone who does not know how to effectively represent himself against a professional prosecutor intending to convict and jail you. If you don't know how to do these things effectively, then hire an attorney that does, who will try to get a dismissal, diversion, reduction or other decent outcome through plea bargain, or take it to trial if appropriate. If serious about hiring counsel to help you in this, and if this is in SoCal courts, feel free to contact me. Ill be happy to help use whatever defenses there may be.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/17/2011
    Law Office of Evan E. Zelig
    Law Office of Evan E. Zelig | Evan E. Zelig
    If your friend was on probation or parole, then he is most likely subject to being searched without a warrant if the police contact him. Police may also do a Pat down search for officer safety in some circumstances. Depending on the amount of cash on him the police may be able to confiscate it and, if there is other evidence, may make an arrest based on probable cause. Much more information is needed to provide you with the best possible advice. Please feel free to contact me or another attorney in your area for additional information.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/17/2011
    Edward  D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law
    Edward D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law | Edward D. Dowling IV
    I would need further information in order to determine whether the police had probable cause to search. Also it may depend on how much cash and whether he was in a location known for drug dealing or other illegal activity.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 5/17/2011
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C.
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C. | Michael Anthony Wing
    Sounds suspect to me. The specific facts would need to be reviewed by a lawyer, but from what you post, I say no. Stay well.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 5/17/2011
    Bloom Legal, LLC
    Bloom Legal, LLC | Seth J. Bloom
    If your friend is on probation or a similar program then it may be one of the terms of the probation that he is subject to random searches. Generally there would need to be some type of probable cause to allow the police to search him. The fact that they were aware that he had a criminal background seems to suggest that they stopped and detained him initially for some other reason before running a background check. This initial reason for detention could possibly serve as sufficient probable cause to warrant a search. That being said, all cases are different and we really would need more information to make an accurate assessment. You should contact the offices of a criminal defense attorney in your area if you think that your friend will need legal representation.
    Answer Applies to: Louisiana
    Replied: 5/17/2011
    Law Office of Andrew Subin
    Law Office of Andrew Subin | Andrew Subin
    A criminal background is not grounds for a search. Also, you cannot be arrested for simply carrying cash, regardless of the amount.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 5/17/2011
    Law Office of Brendan M. Kelly
    Law Office of Brendan M. Kelly | Brendan M. Kelly
    Cannot search a person absent a warrant or probable cause that a crime occurred, unless you consent. Can't arrest you for having cash absent probable cause.
    Answer Applies to: Nebraska
    Replied: 5/17/2011
    Law Offices of John Carney
    Law Offices of John Carney | John Carney
    Your summary states that it was a New Jersey case and that he had a criminal record. Having cash on you is not a crime. If it is over $10,000 you have to declare it at an airport or border if asked. The police need to suspect that a crime is being committed in order to have probable cause to search without a warrant. They can frisk you if they have a fear for their safety. There is no reason to search a person just because they have a prior record. It appears to be an illegal search and arrest.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 5/16/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    In order to legitimately operate within the parameters of one of the numerous exceptions to the general rule that they must have a search warrant prior to such a search. It is important that your friend retain an experienced criminal lawyer, in your community, ASAP, in order to explore the possibility of an illegal search. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 5/16/2011
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C.
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C. | Theodore W. Robinson
    It sounds like an illegal search and it doesn't sound right at all. I suspect there is more to this story than you realize. Having cash alone (the amount of which you didn't mention) is definitely not a crime, so it would appear there is more to this story. Have your friend hire a good criminal defense lawyer quickly. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 5/16/2011
    Law Office of Tracey S. Sang
    Law Office of Tracey S. Sang | Tracey Sang
    If someone is on probation with a Fourth Waiver (which is common) then it means they have waived their Fourth Amendment rights and may be searched at any time without cause. If there is no Fourth Waiver then there is not legal cause to search someone just because they have a "criminal background." I doubt that your friend was arrested only because he had cash on him but I would be happy to discuss the case with him.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/16/2011
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr. | Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    See a good criminal attorney. There are potential issues here that do not sound favorable for the cops.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/16/2011
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    Having cash isn't a basis for arrest. There would seem to be more to the story than you have been told.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 5/16/2011
    Miller & Harrison, LLC
    Miller & Harrison, LLC | David Harrison
    If there was no reason to search except for the fact he had cash that would be a defensible case. Get the police report + consult a lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 5/16/2011
    Law Offices of Scott G. Hilderman
    Law Offices of Scott G. Hilderman | Scott G. Hilderman
    If they have some additional information that links your friend to criminal activity and they have probable cause that he committed criminal activity such as money laundering, fraud, or selling drugs they may have enough. However, based on the facts that you have provided it is not possible to really give you an opinion.
    Answer Applies to: Montana
    Replied: 5/16/2011
    Timothy J. Thill P.C.
    Timothy J. Thill P.C. | Timothy J. Thill
    The police can detain a person for questioning, a very brief period of time, just enough to get the person's identity and perhaps do a pat-down search of his clothes, but definitely can not arrest him for having cash on him.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 5/16/2011
    Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider
    Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider | Peter Goldscheider
    I would need to know the specifics of why the police though they had probable cause to arrest him. The mere possession of cash is obviously not sufficient nor is a prior criminal record.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/16/2011
    Law Offices of Phil Hache
    Law Offices of Phil Hache | Phil Hache
    The police generally need a warrant to search someone, although there are many exceptions to this. Was your friend on parole? I would need to know more information as to what circumstances led to the search, his criminal background, etc. How much cash did he have on him? And without seeing the discovery, not sure what the police may have in the report to justify an arrest, and if they claim to have based it on more than just the fact that he had cash on him. You should contact a criminal defense attorney in your jurisdiction to discuss the case in further detail.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/16/2011
    Law Office of Rankin Johnson IV, LLC
    Law Office of Rankin Johnson IV, LLC | Rankin Johnson IV
    To pat you down, the police need "reasonable suspicion" that you're a threat. To search you, they need "probable cause" that they'll find evidence of a crime. To arrest you, they need probable cause that you have committed a crime (and after a lawful arrest, they can search you a lot more.) Those are fuzzy rules, but they have limits. Carrying cash and having a criminal record is neither reasonable suspicion nor probable cause. But if the police asked for, and got, consent to search, or if there is other evidence you aren't mentioning, maybe it was okay. It's something to take up with a lawyer, either as part of the criminal case (if there is one) or as part of trying to get the cash back (if the police kept it). In any event, if they didn't find evidence as a result of the illegal search, it doesn't really matter. Suing the police is hard and requires genuine damages, not just harassment or annoyance.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 5/16/2011
    Austin Legal Services, PLC
    Austin Legal Services, PLC | Jared Austin
    A whole lot more information is needed. It is not against any law to carry cash and that is not a valid reason to arrest someone. I get the feeling there is much more to this story than you are letting on.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 5/16/2011
    Attorneys of Michigan, PLLC
    Attorneys of Michigan, PLLC | Daniel Hajji
    It depends on how much cash he had on him and whether the police had reasonable suspicion to search him and whether that gave rise to probable cause to arrest.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 5/16/2011
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law | Jules Fiani
    Yes it an illegal search unless he consented to the search or they an arrest warrant or a search warrant.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 5/16/2011
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC | Timothy J. Klisz
    I'm sure that wasn't the reason for the search, but having cash is certainly not a crime.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 5/16/2011
    Howard W. Collins, Attorney at Law
    Howard W. Collins, Attorney at Law | Howard W. Collins
    Wow, I have heard of some weird arrests but that is pretty strange. The only thing that I could think of to justify an arrest for possessing cash is that your friend either sold some illegal stuff to an uncover agent and the bills were marked. You may want to have your friend call but he needs a lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 5/16/2011
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