Tenaha’s toll on drug trafficking

There are  stories in the Houston Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, and KWTX paint a troubling picture of Americans having cash and/or property taken from them by law enforcement under the justification of suspicion of a crime and without due process of law. Usually  stories about law enforcement officers offering to let someone go if they’ll just leave their property behind come from Americans who travel outside the country and beyond the reach of our Constitution. However, in this case the trouble is not south of the border–it’s west of the Louisiana border in the small town of Tenaha (population 1,110).

Over the last few years, Tenaha law enforcement has seized the property of over 140 people who were passing through town because police suspected a crime had been committed. This is done under law written to make it easier to seize property related to illegal activity such as drug smuggling.

The problem is that in many of the Tenaha cases the accused is never formally accused and charges are not filed. Essentially, suspected criminals are allowed to drive away (or walk when their vehicle is seized) in return for giving property to local officials.  In such cases either: (a) innocent people are shaken down for money, or (b) guilty people go free. Neither seems to be “justice.” It’s not clear to me why local officials are allowed to profit from illegal activity and ignore the Constitution.

In any case, anyone running drugs along Highway 59 should keep plenty of cash on hand. Drug traffickers are facing a new version of Texas toll roads.


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