Newspaper column: Time to end warrantless searches and seizures

Civil asset forfeiture has turned into a fundraising scam for federal and local law enforcement agencies, who use the excuse that seized cash, cars and homes are the product of suspected criminal endeavors and thus forfeitable to the government, usually the agency doing the seizing.

It is happening in jurisdictions all across the nation and here in Nevada. A year ago a deputy in Humboldt County pulled over a California tourist in a rental car and grabbed $50,000 in cash that the tourist said he won in a casino, as reported in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times and Elko Daily Free Press.

The day after that tourist’s money was seized, Humboldt County Sheriff Ed Kilgore sent out a news release along with a photo of the deputy posing with the cash and a police dog. “This cash would have been used to purchase illegal drugs and now will benefit Humboldt County with training and equipment,” the release boasted. “Great job.”

Deputy seized tourist’s cash.

According to a recording from a dashboard-mounted camera in the patrol car, the tourist asked why he was being searched, and the deputy replied, “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. If my dog alerts, I’m seizing the money. You can try to get it back but you’re not.”

He also told the tourist, “You’ll burn it up in attorney fees before we give it back to you.”

The tourist sued and eventually got his cash back.

A couple of months later another man had cash seized by the same deputy.

And you thought the Fourth Amendment guaranteed: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

In Philadelphia, the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit civil liberties law firm, has taken the police to court to try stop what one judge called state-sanctioned theft.

IJ has three clients, all of whom had their homes seized by police. In each case the police claim the property was used to commit minor drug crimes, none of which involved the actual owners.

“The class-action lawsuit challenges several aspects of Philadelphia’s forfeiture scheme. First, Philadelphia routinely seeks orders authorizing its officials to ‘seize and seal’ homes and other real properties — which they accomplish by throwing people, like Chris Sourovelis and their families, out onto the streets,” IJ reports. “But the city does not provide the families with any notice when it seeks such an order, and the homeowners never get a chance to argue why they should not be evicted before they are thrown out.”

A bill has been introduced in Congress to reform the civil forfeiture law.

Read the entire column Ely or Elko.

14 comments on “Newspaper column: Time to end warrantless searches and seizures

  1. noodle35 says:

    Keep up your good work!

    Jim Gregory

    Phone: ( 775-738-8000 x 109

    Fax: 775-778-0315/ 738-8990

    Cell: 775-934-5995


    P. O. Box 2688

    Elko, NV 89803

  2. Winston Smith says:

    Shortly after the “drug war” really kicked in during the ’80’s, I noticed that a police detective that I went to church with was driving a nearly-new BMW 630CSi. When I inquired, he said that it was confiscated from a drug dealer who was driving it when busted, which was the new SOP in his department. I could see then that a new zero-tolerance slippery slope had been instituted, though I had no idea how bad it would become.

    The fact that society has put up with this for so long is simply an indication of how effective fear-mongering and brainwashing by government can be. Hopefully, with the level of abuse that goes on, people will finally wake up to this travesty of justice.

    Hey petey, weren’t you a cop? What’s your take on this destruction of the 4th Amendment?

  3. Rincon says:

    The same Conservatives that fret about government control in health care and energy have given away far more of our rights with their drug and anti-terrorism laws.

  4. Athos says:

    Not this Conservative, Rin. Who you talking about?

    Good luck trying to reign in the leviathan.

  5. Rincon says:

    Seems to me that Rush and Sean were all over it after 9/11 in support of Bush’s Patriot Act.

  6. Winston Smith says:

    Rin, whether someone is a Big Government (D) or a Big Government (R) fan, I really don’t care, since both types want to reduce my individual liberty and increase state control. Rush’s Big Government worldview was exposed when Janet Reno executed those at Waco. I never listened to him again…

    BTW, where’s petey on this thread? Getting his marching orders at Ft. Meade

  7. And many of us were not OK with the so-called Patriot Act.

  8. Rincon says:

    I guess it was a bit of an insult to lump you guys together with Rush and Sean. I have to respect and agree with your replies.

  9. Winston Smith says:

    Yeah, I don’t even like Fox News, except for The Judge. Though Megyn Kelly is pretty hot 🙂

  10. Winston Smith says:

    Coincidentally, I just saw this on Facebook from The Bastiat Institute:

  11. Rincon says:

    Shocking, Winston.. Health care seems Bush league compared to this, but why do they think we trust them when they pull these kinds of stunts?

  12. Winston Smith says:

    My old friend Chuck on the growing militarized police/surveillance state:

  13. […] Humboldt County here in Nevada a county deputy seized $50,000 from a California tourist who said he’s won it at a casino, because he thought he might be a […]

  14. […] Humboldt County here in Nevada a county deputy seized $50,000 from a California tourist who said he’d won it at a casino. The deputy claimed he might be a drug […]

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