hot dog vendor

A video of UC-Berkeley campus police ticketing a hot dog vendor for selling food without a permit is going viral, after police were filmed taking his money.

In the video, a man selling hot dogs at a college football game is being confronted by two UC-Berkeley police officers, who are ticketing him for selling hot dogs without a permit from the school. In addition to giving the man a citation and shutting down his cart, one of the officers present seized the man’s cash. The vendor, who is only known as “Juan,” appears to not be fluent in English, and appears confused throughout the video as to why the officer pocketed the cash in his wallet.

The person filming the officers points out that rather than take the hot dog vendor’s money, campus police could instead walk down the street and ticket students for drinking in public. The officer, however, ignores the videographer, telling him that he wouldn’t issue those citations, since the videographer didn’t call in and report tailgaters drinking in public.

In response to the video, Martin Flores — who filmed the incident — started a GoFundMe page to raise money for Juan’s business. As of this writing, the crowdfunding campaign has raised more than $8,000 out of a $10,000 goal. If the goal is exceeded, Martin pledged to donate the excess amount to other street vendors who had their cash seized by police for selling without a permit. As of this writing, Martin Flores has yet to locate Juan, only promising on the GoFundMe that he will give Juan the full amount contributed after finding him.

The officer’s seizure of Juan’s cash appears to be a violation of California’s new law preventing the practice of civil asset forfeiture. Under the law, which was signed by Governor Jerry Brown in September of 2016, no person can have their personal belongings or cash taken by police unless they’ve been formally convicted of a crime:

Starting on January 1, 2017, California law will require a conviction prior to forfeiture in any state case where the items seized are cash under $40,000 or other property such as homes and vehicles regardless of value. This updates current law, which has a conviction threshold for cash up to $25,000.

While it could be argued that Juan was found guilty on the spot for the crime of selling food without a permit, the video shows the officer pocketing every last dollar in the hot dog vendor’s wallet, without any proof that all of the money in Juan’s possession was from the hot dog stand. It is not yet known whether Juan will seek legal action against the UC-Berkeley police department.


Matthew P. Robbins is a freelance economics contributor covering wages, budgets, and taxes. He lives in Chicago, Illinois with his husband and two cats. 

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