A Mississippi man says Harris County illegally seized $41,680 from a car in a traffic stop in May 2019

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – A Mississippi man is currently fighting to get back the $41,680 he says Harris County took from him without merit.

In May 2019, Ameal Woods was driving on I-10 outside of Houston when officers from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office pulled him over for following the vehicle in front of him at an unsafe distance.

According to an affidavit from a deputy involved in the stop, they tried to let Woods go with a warning, but he started acting nervous.

With Woods’ permission, deputies searched his vehicle and found the money he is currently reclaiming.

Woods was not criminally charged, but authorities believed the money found would be used for a drug deal.

“His life savings are his life savings,” said Arif Panju of the Institute for Justice, the organization that represents Woods. “It is incumbent on the state to have an actual crime they believe has committed.”

Prosecutors disagree, saying Chapter 59 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows them to treat the money as contraband because it bears hallmarks of bills intended for drug purchases.

Harris County District Attorney Angela Beavers said the money was bundled in electrical tape, vacuum sealed and laced with transmission fluid – a substance used to deter police dogs from spotting drug residue on bills.

“They don’t have to file criminal charges against you,” Beavers said. “Thank God he didn’t get into the actual drug deal.”

Additionally, affidavits from lawmakers handling the case say that Woods admitted to having ties to a Mississippi drug dealer before leaving for Houston.

“We have evidence that he told officers that a known drug dealer paid him to come to Houston to buy the dope,” Beavers said. “This is drug money that the officer had every right to seize to prevent this drug deal from going through.”

Panju, based in Washington DC, says affidavits, such as those used by the District Attorney’s Office, are being processed as a way for the county to make money.

“In this country, if you don’t arrest people, you have to declare what crime and why you own money,” Panju said. “Cash is not a crime, but that’s all they have at the moment.”

ABC13 reached out to Houston attorney Stephen Aslett, who is not involved in the case, to analyze the situation.

Although it’s an unpopular law that he could eventually change through courts or statutes, Harris County had enough evidence to legally confiscate the money from Woods, Aslett said.

The Institute for Justice has filed a civil complaint and a class action complaint in connection with this case.

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https://abc13.com/40-000-seized-traffic-stop-mississippi/11870014/ A Mississippi man says Harris County illegally seized $41,680 from a car in a traffic stop in May 2019

Dais Johnston

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