Lawsuit against TSA and DEA over seizures moves forward

PITTSBURGH — A class-action lawsuit filed against the Transportation Security Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration will move forward federal court after a Pittsburgh judge rejected the government’s motion to dismiss.

The lawsuit, filed by the Institute for Justice in January 2020 on behalf of Terry Rolin and his daughter Rebecca Brown, alleges that TSA screeners detained travelers, turned them over to law enforcement, and seize money without any cause for suspicion and without filing any criminal charges, a news release stated.

U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Horan rejected the government’s motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ three class action claims on Tuesday.

According to the release, TSA and DEA officials seized Rolin’s life savings of over $82,000 from Brown as she was flying from Pittsburgh to her home outside Boston, where she intended to open a joint bank account to help care for her father. After the lawsuit was filed, the DEA returned the money, but only after holding it for over six months without any accusations of criminality, let alone criminal charges.

Additionally, the DEA seized $43,000 from Stacy Jones at the Wilmington, N.C., airport in May 2020 as she was flying home to Tampa. The agency returned her money after she joined the lawsuit and nine months after it was seized. Once again, criminal charges were never filed, the release states.

“TSA and DEA routinely violate Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights at airports across the country by detaining them for doing something completely legal: flying with cash,” said Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Dan Alban. “Seizing and forfeiting someone’s savings should not be done lightly, yet we’ve documented how easy it is for law enforcement to take money at airports without any evidence of a crime. Now, thanks to our class action lawsuit, we are going to uncover the truth behind how and why the government is targeting innocent flyers, and ultimately put an end to this predatory practice.”

According to the release, there are no restrictions on traveling with any amount of money on domestic flights.

“TSA’s and DEA’s unconstitutional conduct across the country suggests that the agencies are more interested in seizing cash than securing safety,” said Institute for Justice Attorney Jaba Tsitsuashvili. “And these seizures subject people to a confusing bureaucratic process, without an attorney provided, where a single misstep could mean losing their life savings forever. Even those who succeed in getting their money returned are deprived of it for months or years, often upending their lives. No one should lose their money without a criminal conviction.”