Stephen Lara, a father of two daughters living in California, was stopped by Nevada law enforcement officers in February 2021 while driving from Nevada to California. The traffic stop was anything but routine and the officers violated Lara’s rights.
Lara’s savings totaled $87,000. The officers did not charge him with any crime. The officers did this by claiming that the money was most likely used to commit drug crimes. They then took his money using civil asset forfeiture. They chose the wrong person as their target.
Stephen Lara, a father of two daughters living in California, was traveling cross-country when the Nevada Highway Patrol confiscated his entire savings amounting to $87,000.
“I knew that at that time, that wasn’t where to fight this war,” Lara, a 42-year-old Marine Veteran, told Fox News. “I had no choice but to remain calm.”
Lara took seven months to recover his money from the government. However, his fight against law enforcement agencies receiving kickbacks when they seize suspected but untested American property continues.
Lara’s fight for justice has been rekindled after nearly three years. A new ruling denied Nevada’s motion dismissing his case.
Lara stated, “It is outrageous that our county, local and state governments are colluding to steal assets from people they’re supposed to serve.” “I have already received my money back but that doesn’t solve the issue.”
He added, “I intend to see this through until the end and that we are victorious.”
Lara was pulled over by the police officers for driving too close to another truck.
Lara said, “He pulled over my car for driving too closely to a truck. The next thing I knew, they were pulling me out and going through all of my belongings, asking me questions about whether I had drugs or bodies in the vehicle. “And I was thinking, ‘What’s going on?’
Lara admitted to the police that he kept money in his car. He said, “I don’t believe banks so I keep my money myself.” They searched his vehicle and found $87,000, along with bank receipts, pay stubs, and other documents.
This is another example of how the state abuses civil asset forfeiture (also known as “Policing For Profit” or “Policing to Collect Funds”) in order to collect money. The laws were intended to disrupt organized criminals by targeting their assets. These operations often involve ordinary citizens, like Lara.
Police officers can seize cash or property without ever having to charge the person with a crime. The police officers only need to “suspect”, that the cash or property in question is linked to a criminal act, even if they cannot prove that there was a crime. Local and state governments can raise money at the expense of citizens.
Even when states have adopted civil asset forfeiture laws, local and State law enforcement agencies can take advantage of loopholes provided by the federal government. The Equitable Sharing Program allows local and state authorities to seize money or property and give it to federal law enforcement agencies. The feds then give 20% of the seized assets to lower levels of government. In this instance, the Nevada state police handed the money over to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Civil asset forfeiture laws have led to innocent citizens losing money and property. The process of retrieving what the government has stolen is often cumbersome and requires the assistance of expensive lawyers who are familiar with the bureaucracy. It is extremely difficult to recover the victim’s possessions. Lara’s situation highlights the injustice and tyranny of this practice. He is now a new voice against civil asset forfeiture.