Can Police Forfeit All the Money Found During a Drug Arrest ?

The Supreme Court in Commonwealth v. $ 6,425.00 Seized from Esquilin, 583 Pa. 544, 880 A.2d 523 (2005), addressed what proper inferences could be made in a forfeiture determination. In that case, police officers observed Esquilin standing on the sidewalk with Burgos. Within 25 minutes, three individuals at separate times handed an unknown amount of money to Burgos who then reached into the front of his pants and pulled out small objects that he gave to each of them. He then handed the money to Esquilin. After they left the area, police were able to locate two of the three individuals, both of whom had crack cocaine in their possession. Acting on this information, the police arrested Burgos, recovering three zip-lock packets of cocaine and $ 7 in cash and Esquilin, who had no drugs but $ 6,425 in cash comprised of 48 $ 100 bills, two $ 50 bills, 69 $ 20 bills, eight $ 10 bills, 11 $ 5 bills, and 10 $ 1 bills. Esquilin was charged with criminal conspiracy and possessing a controlled substance with intent to deliver, but the charges were ultimately dismissed for lack of a prompt trial. Finding that each transaction had a value of $ 20, the Court held that only $ 60 should be forfeited because the Commonwealth only established a direct nexus for that amount of money and the criminal activity. The Supreme Court reversed and affirmed the trial court's forfeiture of all the money.