Tiny Alabama Speed Trap Seizes Cash, Impounds Cars To Fund Police

Forbes – by Nick Sibilla

With only 550 residents and a main street just 600 feet long, Castleberry, Alabama has certainly fallen on hard times. But the town has found a way to make its fortune: take it from someone else.

Lying on US Route 31, about halfway between Mobile and Montgomery, Castleberry has become one of the state’s worst speed traps. Earlier this year, 15 people filed a lawsuit against the town and its police chief, claiming that Castleberry police unlawfully seized their cash, impounded their cars or detained them against their will.  

One of the plaintiffs is Trey Alexander Crozier, who was driving through Castleberry in October 2016, heading north to potentially buy a truck. After he backed his car out, two officers wearing camo pants and flak jackets stopped his car and forced Crozier out onto the street. Officers seized $1,500 in cash they found inside the car as well as $250 Crozier was carrying in his wallet. Police claimed it was drug money. Yet one year later, the town has still failed to file a civil forfeiture lawsuit against the property or any criminal charges against Crozier. He didn’t even get a ticket from the traffic stop.

Adding insult to injury, Castleberry even impounded the car Crozier was driving, which belonged to his mother, Sheri Manahan. To get back her 2002 Mercury Sable, Manahan had to pay a $500 “impound fee” to the town. Like her son, Manahan was never charged with a crime. Nor was she alone: The lawsuit identified at least seven other instances where car owners claimed they were forced to pay $500 to retrieve their impounded vehicles.

“The cops took every penny I had. I have no idea where my money is now. I’ve tried to get it back for almost a year,” Crozier told AL.com. Police were just looking for an excuse “so they could tow my car and take my money and belongings,” he added.

Castleberry’s police force only dates back to 2009, when J.B. Jackson, then the town’s mayor, hired a police chief, Tracy Hawsey. According to Jackson, the police force was seen as a money-making operation from the get-go: “We didn’t have much so Hawsey come to me and said ‘There is a lot of crime in this town and a lot of drugs coming through this town.’ So he said why don’t we set up a court system to get some money coming in.”

Thanks to the state’s civil forfeiture laws, confiscating cash can be immensely lucrative. According to the Institute for Justice, law enforcement agencies can keep 100 percent of the proceeds from forfeiture—a deeply perverse incentive. Moreover, police and prosecutors do not have to disclose any of their forfeiture activity or spending, thwarting public and legislative oversight.


3 thoughts on “Tiny Alabama Speed Trap Seizes Cash, Impounds Cars To Fund Police

  1. “According to Jackson, the police force was seen as a money-making operation from the get-go…”

    News flash… THEY ALL ARE!!!

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