Reading about state forfeiture laws that allow cops to seize money from citizens who have not broken any laws is infuriating as it is.
But watching it done on dash cam is absolutely enraging.
Especially when Humboldt County deputy Lee Dove gives a driver the choice between abandoning $50,000 and be on his way or having it seized along with his car under Nevada’s state forfeiture law.
The dash cam video was obtained by KLAS-TV in Las Vegas, which published the following transcript:
Deputy Dove: “That’s not yours, is it?”
Motorist: “That’s mine.”
Deputy Dove: “Well, I’m seizing it.”
The dash-cam video gives insight into what some say is a pattern of questionable drug interdiction stops by Deputy Dove along I-80 near Winnemucca in northern Nevada. The out-of-state motorist was stopped for doing 78 mph in an 75 mph zone. Deputy Dove finds $50,000 cash and $10,000 in cashiers checks during a search of the car. The first issue is whether Dove obtained permission to search the car or whether he simply told the driver, Tan Nguyen, he was going to do it.
Deputy Dove: “Well, I’m gonna search that vehicle first, ok?”
Nguyen: “Hey, what’s the reason you’re searching my car?”
Deputy Dove: “Because I’m talking to you … well, no, I don’t have to explain that to you. I’m not going to explain that to you, but I am gonna put my drug dog on that (pointing to money). If my dog alerts, I’m seizing the money. You can try to get it back but you’re not.”
Nguyen: (inaudible) got it in Vegas.”
Deputy Dove: “Good luck proving it. Good luck proving it. You’ll burn it up in attorney fees before we give it back to you.”
But Dove never seizes the money under state forfeiture law, instead he offers Nguyen a deal. Abandon the cash and you can leave with the cashiers checks. Otherwise, Dove will confiscate the cash anyway and tow the car because Nguyen’s name isn’t on the rental agreement.
Deputy Dove: “It’s your call. If you want to walk away, you can take the cashiers checks, the car and everything and you can bolt and you’re on your way. But you’re gonna be walking away from this money and abandoning it.
The driver sued the department to get his money back along with $10,000 in attorney’s fees. And Dove is still a deputy, although he is no longer allowed to order citizens to just abandon their money. But he still has the authority to seize money under the tiresome guise of the “war on drugs.”
Humboldt County Sheriff Ed Kilgore spoke with the I-Team and said proper procedures were not followed in a number of cases. He said, his officers no longer ask people to abandon their cash. If it’s suspected proceeds from a crime, the civil forfeiture process will be followed and people will be given their day in court, Kilgore said. He added, he thought the cases were being sent to the district attorney’s office and being handled as forfeitures, but some were not. That was the case with Tan Nguyen’s money. “We want to do the right thing. I am a strong proponent of fighting the war on drugs, and I want to make sure everything we do here is on the up-and-up,” Kilgore said.