Using cash for secondhand transactions now illegal in Louisiana

Sometimes I see things that I just can’t believe are true. This is one of those times.

Earlier this year, the Louisiana legislature almost unanimously passed a law that prohibits the use of cash in secondhand transactions.

The story on this one is that the law is intended to create a paper trail when people steal things like copper or other materials from a construction site. Forcing a check, money order, or electronic payment would make it easier for law enforcement to find a thief. I understand that argument, but there are some real problems with this law.

U.S. currency is valid for all transactions. On the front of our currency is the line “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.” Prohibiting the use of legal tender is a bit of an oxymoron.

Records of each transaction must be kept for 3 years. When you hear people like me fussing about unnecessary government regulations hindering businesses, this is the type of thing we’re talking about. This law requires businesses to keep very specific records for each second hand transaction so that law enforcement can find people they suspect are thieves.

The information to be collected by the dealer includes: date, location of purchase, name and address of seller, driver’s license or passport number of seller, license plate of vehicle used to deliver the goods, a full description of all materials being purchased.

Sharing records with the police – without a warrant – is required. The Fourth Amendment is being trampled yet again. This law says failure to produce a report of sales data requested by law enforcement means that the buyer did not keep the records as specified by law and can be fined $1000 or imprisoned for 30-60 days. The law makes no mention of a warrant being necessary to obtain the records.

Antique stores, collectible shops, and thrift stores are included. The definition of “secondhand dealer” specifically includes businesses who deal in “furniture, pictures, objects of art, [and] clothing.” When you sell an old piece of furniture to an antique store or your baseball card collection to a baseball card shop, your personally identifiable information will be on record in that store for 3 years.

Additionally, when you buy furniture or art from an antique store or that Nolan Ryan rookie card from the baseball card shop, Louisiana law prevents you from using cash.

Transactions with minors are prohibited. This law prevents minors from selling goods to secondhand dealers. Does this mean that private property rights aren’t extended to Louisiana citizens until their 18th birthday?

Going back to the baseball card example, when I was young, it was common for me to take cards in my collection to the local baseball card shop to sell. I worked in that shop for a while, and people – including minors – frequently came in to sell their collections. This law specifically removes private property rights from minors by prohibiting them from selling something that is rightfully theirs.

The part of this story that is quite possibly the most amazing part is that this law was signed by Governor Bobby Jindal. I’m no expert on all things Jindal, but he is supposed to be one of the rising stars of the Republican Party. There should be serious doubt cast on any politician willing to sign legislation that so obviously erodes individual liberty.

Though Jindal should have vetoed the legislation, the fault here isn’t entirely his. The Louisiana legislature almost unanimously passed this awful bill, so a portion of the blame for this should lie with the state legislature. Ultimately, though, the responsibility to elect a Governor and legislators who will oppose such obvious attacks on freedom lies with the people of Louisiana.

This law slipped through the legislature and became law in Louisiana without much notice. The same thing could happen in your state. Pay attention to what’s happening in your state legislature or you may one day find that your private property rights aren’t what they used to be.

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