U.S. Eighth Circuit - The FindLaw 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Stripper Gets Back $1M Seized During Traffic Stop

The Eighth Circuit just got a little saucier with a stripper, a drug bust, and $1 million dollars in cold hard cash at the center of it all. A former California stripper is slated to get more than $1 million in cash returned to her after Nebraska state troopers seized the bills during a traffic stop in 2012.

Nebraska District Judge Joseph F. Bataillon ordered that all $1,074,900 be returned to ex-stripper Tara Mishra, saying her story that she saved up the money while stripping from the age of 18 was credible, and that the government never proved the money had any connection to a drug transaction, reports NJ.com.

What the Trooper Taketh Away...

Nebraska troopers seized Mishra's stripper savings last March, when Rajesh Dheri -- the man who was carrying Mishra's junk in the trunk money in the trunk -- was pulled over for speeding en route to New Jersey. With Dheri and his wife's permission, a trooper searched the car and discovered bundled $100 bills that he believed were related to narcotics. (Sidebar: Please note the wads of cash were tied with rubber bands and hair scrunchies.) The trooper arrested the Dheris and seized the cash. The moola was sniffed by a drug dog that confirmed the smell of narcotics on the money, according to NJ.com. ...The Judge Giveth Back.

Generally, money can be forfeited by a rightful owner to the government if that money was being used in illegal activities. The government claimed Mishra's money was subject to forfeiture since it was likely involved with drug crimes.

Unfortunately for the government, Mishra presented tax returns and corroborating testimony that the cash was hers, and that the Dheris were transporting the cash across the country for a legitimate, non-drug-related business deal in New Jersey.

Bataillon ultimately sided with Mishra, saying the government never gave enough proof of any drug connection. He found it especially troubling that the police immediately converted the cash to a cashier's check, which eliminated the ability to independently test the bills.

He also said the K9 search didn't prove anything, citing a dissenting opinion by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens in another forfeiture case, Bennis v. Michigan: "It has been estimated that nearly every United States bill in circulation [...] carries trace amounts of cocaine, so great is the drug trade's appetite for cash."

So remember, always wash your hands after handling money, because we're all basically touching cocaine.

Because of the lack of evidence from the government, Bataillon ruled in favor of Mishra, and ordered the money returned to her -- with interest, no less. So there you have it. All that shaking of Mishra's money-maker was not in vain.

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