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After police seized Marine vet’s life savings, ruling brings him closer to saving others from civil forfeiture

via Insititute for Justice
This article was originally published at StateOfUnion.org. Publications approved for syndication have permission to republish this article, such as Microsoft News, Yahoo News, Newsbreak, UltimateNewswire and others. To learn more about syndication opportunities, visit About Us.

Stephen Lara, a Marine veteran, had his $87,000 life savings seized by the Nevada Highway Patrol during a routine traffic stop.

Despite getting his money back after seven months, he continues to fight against law enforcement seizing property without trial.

Lara said, “I knew at that moment that wasn’t the place to fight this battle.”

“I had to stay calm,” he recalled.

“This is absolutely atrocious for our county, local, state and federal governments to be colluding with each other on taking assets from the very people that they’re supposed to be serving,” he explained.

“I’ve already got my money back, but that does not solve the problem,” Lara continued.

“I fully intend on seeing this through until we succeed and we’re victorious,” promised the Marine.

Lara said, “He pulled me over for driving too close to a truck and the next thing you know, I’m being pulled out of the car, and they’re going through my personal belongings and asking me a ton of questions — if I had any bodies in the car or any drugs, any anything illegal.”

“And I’m thinking to myself, ‘What is going on here?’” he recalled.

Lara told the police, “I don’t trust banks, so I keep my own money.”

“I’m thinking, these guys couldn’t have pulled over a worse person because I’m not going to back down from this,” said Lara.

“I knew I was going to get my money back. It was just a matter of how,” he promised.

A new ruling has given his case new life.

Lara’s experience has led to a loss of trust in law enforcement.

Institute for Justice attorney Ben Field, said, “Steven lost his life savings for the better part of a year while the government simply held on to it, and he had to file a lawsuit to get it back since they didn’t have any evidence of a crime.”

“But for most people, they just don’t have the resources to do that,” he continued.

“The government relies on people not asserting their constitutional rights so that it can keep the money,” added the activist.

Field said, “Mr. Lara wants a declaration from the court saying that Nevada law enforcement has to respect the Nevada Constitution, and they can’t go around the protections of Nevada law simply by giving the money over to the federal government.”

“The government was arguing there’s simply no way for somebody like Mr. Lara to seek to vindicate his rights in court,” explained Field.

“And the court said, ‘No, that’s wrong,’” said Field.

Lara said, “It was the very government I would have laid my life down for that was trying to take my money.”

“They tried to take my livelihood away from my children and I, and that does something to you,” he concluded.

The government’s use of civil asset forfeiture, despite lacking evidence of a crime, has been challenged in court, with the recent denial of Nevada’s motion to dismiss the case.

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