Watch Nevada Highway Patrol Officers Seize a Veteran’s Life Savings Through Asset Forfeiture

Stephen Lara stated that Officer Brown was taking his money from my children’s pockets. He said this as Nevada Highway Patrol officers took his savings.

Lara was stopped by police near Reno in February 19th. Lara consented and was searched by officers. They found nearly $90,000. Lara wasn’t arrested and charged with any crime. However, officers discovered nearly $90,000. In bundled cash in Lara’s backpack. This was drug trafficking proceeds.

Lara’s funds have been returned to the government by Lara, who was then reimbursed. The Institute for Justice is a public-interest law firm that advocates libertarian principles, which took over Lara’s case on Tuesday. Released body camera footageThe February 19, traffic stop was described as a rare glimpse at an abuse of power, which thousands of innocent Americans witness each year.

The Washington PostFirst reportedLara was able to file a suit against the Drug Enforcement Administration in September. His money had been sitting for six months after he was stopped for traffic violations.

I left there in confusion. Lara explained that she left the area angry. Post. “And it was unbelievable to me that they had literally robbed me on the side roads by gun-wielding men with badges.”

Lara, a Nevada Highway Patrol officer stopped Lara near Reno because he was following too closely to a semi truck and driving under the speed limit. Lara, who is a Marine combat Veteran, was on his way from Texas, to California to visit two of his daughters.

Lara asked the officer several questions about her past. He almost sheepishly revealed that he did also do drug interdiction work. Lara inquired whether he had guns, cash, or drugs in his car. 

Lara acknowledged that he did have cash. There was plenty of it.

When asked, Lara replied that he doesn’t trust banks so he keeps his own money. Lara then granted permission for the officer to inspect his vehicle.

Lara was a potential trafficker on paper. For a $87,000 short-turnaround and long-distance trip, Lara drove a rent car. Police can seize any property that is suspected to be connected to criminal activity, without the owner being charged with a crime under civil asset forfeiture laws. Because it targets traffickers, law enforcement agencies believe civil forfeiture is essential for drug interdiction.

It is not illegal to transport large cash amounts domestically, as the officer confirms.

“So, as you know, right—I’m a vet, he’s a vet, you’re a vet—it’s not illegal to carry currency or have currency,” the officer says. We are now able to question why $100,000 is being held by someone. “I can see why banks aren’t trusted in our day and age.”

Lara said, “I have nothing to conceal from you.” He actually had bank receipts for years that documented cash withdrawals.

The cash was not probable, so a Nevada Highway Patrol officer arrived and ordered the entry of a drug-sniffing dogs. Officers announced to the dog that the money would be taken as probable proceeds from drug dealing.

Civil liberties organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ISOJ) say cases like Lara’s demonstrate how police use civil forfeiture for property seizes on the basis of merely speculative suspicions. Owners are not charged with any crime but must prove that they are innocent or the property is innocent.

In a press release, Wesley Hottot (a senior lawyer at the Institute for Justice) stated that “carrying cash around is not a crime.” Stephen was innocent of any wrongdoing. He hasn’t been charged with any offense and the government won’t defend this seizure at court. This is not the right way to take property from innocent people. 

This concern has led to the passage of around 35 asset forfeiture reforms in states over the past ten years. Four states—Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Maine—have AbandonedCivil forfeiture is now complete and property forfeiture requires a conviction.

Lara filed suit against the DEA over a flaw in forfeiture law. The DEA collaborates with the state and local police to combat drug trafficking. Federal law enforcement is able “adopt” forfeiture cases and move them to federal court. The forfeiture proceeds are split up to 80 percent between the local police and the DEA.

While Lara was being questioned by the Nevada Highway Patrol, another officer called a DEA agent.

Advocates for asset forfeiture claim that such adoptions allow state and local police to bypass stricter laws in their states and avoid civil forfeiture. According to the Institute for Justice, the Nevada Highway Patrol could gain $70,000 by the forfeiture of Lara’s money.

Eric Holder, the former Attorney General, restricted when federal law enforcement can adopt local forfeiture cases. This was in 2015. Jeff Sessions, then-AttorneyGeneral of Texas, did so in 2017. RescindedThese are the rules.

Lara was stopped by the police about one hour after he had been pulled over. The officers gave him a receipt for seizure along with a number to a DEA agent.

Lara said to them, “That money in my jacket costs only a few dollars.” I don’t have enough money to buy my children meals or my hotel room, nor to even get my car back to Texas.

Lara, according to the Institute for Justice had to ask his brother for money in order to pay for his trip.

Lara filed a lawsuit against the DEA after Lara missed his deadline to file a forfeiture or cash return case in federal court. The Washington PostPost reported that his case was settled by the government. Lara continues to sue the DEA, and the Nevada Highway Patrol.

Lara states in an Institute for Justice video, “It is even more worrying that this could happen, because I am a combat veteran of overseas operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

However, the Nevada Highway Patrol didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.