NV Sheriff’s Deputy Seizes Drivers’ Money During Traffic Stop, Gets Sued

NV Sheriff’s Deputy Seizes Drivers’ Money During Traffic Stop, Gets Sued

Tan Nguyen had a good time in Vegas.  He drove home with $50,000 in cash and another $10,000 in cashier’s checks.  Nguyen got pulled over in I-80 for doing 3 miles over the speed limit by Humboldt County Sheriff’s Deputy Lee Dove, and what happened then can only be described as robbery:

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.”

If this didn’t already make your head spin, it gets worse.

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.

Deputy Dove: “I don’t have all day to sit here debating it. You need to give me a decision what you want to do.”

How many violations of the Constitution just happened?  Do you know?

Nguyen got his cash back by suing the department after the fact, but that’s not really the point here.  What IS the point, is that sheriff deputies in that county are pulling people out of their cars and attempting to get them to abandon their cash, using their authority and gun to scare drivers into letting them have the cash.  They don’t give tickets, either; they give warnings.  If someone gets a ticket, then they get to speak in open court about how the cop took their cash too.  This way, they don’t get anything but harassed and robbed by the cops.

Pretty pathetic stuff.  Thankfully, a blogger isn’t letting it get swept under the rug.

“Our sheriff and our DA have said there’s no wrongdoing here,” said Dee Holzel.

Holzel is a Winnemucca blogger who wants an investigation of the I-80 cash seizures that’s independent of the local district attorney and sheriff.

“What they said initially was, ‘well, these are civil forfeiture programs. These kinds of things happen everywhere. There’s nothing unusual about Humboldt County.’ But that turned out to not be true. When you have people by the side of the road and you’re having them abandon their money so they’ll be allowed to get in their car and drive away, they don’t do that everywhere,” Holzel said.

Sheriffs are the last line of defense in terms of citizens and law enforcement.  As the highest ranking officers in their county, they need to be held accountable…then again, every law enforcement officer should be held accountable.

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