Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Brown v. Stored Value Cards (9th Cir. - March 16, 2020)

Glad to read this one.

I knew that when you got arrested, they took all your possessions and kept 'em in storage.  And, from watching the movies, I assumed that once you were released, you got them all back (excepting only contraband and the like).

Apparently not.

I now learn that some jurisdictions (1) take your cash, but then (2) upon your release, only give you back a crap "prepaid card" for the value of your cash, and one that rapidly (e.g., often, within 5 days) starts charging you all the type of sleazy fees you would expect from a slimy retailer.  Sure, if you were totally on top of things, you could avoid all those fees by quickly finding a participating bank, driving there, walking up to the teller (not the ATM), and waiting to take out your cash.  But the guys who sell these cards to municipalities know full well that you won't.  If only because you're busy with that whole "criminal arrest" thing.  That's how they make their money.

Plaintiffs say it's a taking, as well as violates a federal law designed to regulate such abusive prepaid cards.  The district court dismissed the lawsuit.  The Ninth Circuit thankfully reverses and remands.

I'm sure it's a little bit of a hassle to hand over the cash you seized from someone after their arrest.  All those little brown envelopes and recordkeeping and such.  But turning this function over to an industry that's notoriously abusive -- and knowing full well you're helping to take away a good chunk of this vulnerable population's cash in "fees" -- is not an acceptable solution.

Just give them their money back.