Clarke was a 24-year-old college student when airport authorities seized his cash through civil asset forfeiture, a questionable legal process in which police seize a person’s property if they are suspected of a crime, even if they are not convicted or charged, which Clarke was not.
Clarke was carrying the cash because he had recently moved and did not want his money to get lost.
He had been saving for the money for five years, and after a ticket agent claimed Clarke smelled like marijuana, agents made the logical connection, based only on their own experiences, that the money must be related to drug-trafficking activities.
Clarke was represented pro bono by the Institute for Justice (IJ), a nonprofit civil liberties group. IJ noted that CVG had conducted almost 100 similar seizures in 2013, with over two million dollars falling into the hands of federal and local agencies.
At the time of the seizure Clarke was charged with disorderly conduct, assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest, after an officer claimed that Clarke became agitated and tried to keep authorities from taking his hard-earned money.