Watch Nevada Highway Patrol Officers Seize a Veteran’s Life Savings Through Asset Forfeiture
“I just want to tell you Officer Brown, you’re taking money out of my kids’ mouths,” Stephen Lara said as Nevada Highway Patrol officers confiscated his life savings.
Police pulled over Lara near Reno on February 19. After he consented to a search, the officers discovered nearly $90,000 in bundled cash in Lara’s backpack. Although Lara was not arrested or charged with a crime, the officers claimed the money was drug trafficking proceeds and seized through a practice known as civil asset forfeiture.
The government has since agreed to return Lara’s money, and on Tuesday, the Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leaning public interest law firm, released body camera footage of the February 19 traffic stop, calling it a “rare glimpse into an abuse of power that thousands of innocent Americans experience each year.”
The Washington Post first reported in September on Lara’s case after the Institute for Justice filed a lawsuit on Lara’s behalf against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), where his money had been sitting for more than six months since that traffic stop.
“I left there confused. I left there angry,” Lara told the Post. “And I could not believe that I had just been literally robbed on the side of the road by people with badges and guns.”
A Nevada Highway Patrol stopped Lara over near Reno for following too close to a semi-truck and traveling under the speed limit. Lara, a Marine combat veteran, was driving from Texas to California to visit his two daughters for the weekend, he said.
After asking Lara several questions about his background, the officer almost sheepishly explained that he was also doing drug interdiction work and asked Lara if he had any guns, drugs, or cash in his car.
Lara admitted he had cash. A lot of it.
“I don’t trust banks, so I keep my own money,” Lara responded when asked why. He then gave the officer permission to search his car.
On paper, Lara fit the profile of a trafficker. He was driving a rental car for a short-turnaround, long-distance trip with a huge amount of cash, $87,000 in fact. Civil asset forfeiture laws allow police to seize property suspected of being connected to criminal activity without charging the owner with a crime. Law enforcement groups say civil forfei
Article from Reason.com