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Hullabaloo


Friday, May 02, 2014

 
Pointless and immoral drug war causing police to get away with literal highway robbery

by David Atkins

This is sheer madness:

If someone with a gun stops you and takes your money -- would you call police? What if the person who takes your money also has a badge?

Some people in Humboldt County, tongue-in-cheek, call it "highway robbery."

One deputy in particular is being singled out for his practice of pressuring travelers to abandon their money or face losing their cars as well. The I-Team has obtained exclusive dash-cam video from one of these drug interdiction stops. While no drugs were found, that didn't stop the deputy from grabbing the cash.

"How much money you got?" Humboldt County Deputy Lee Dove can be heard asking on the video.

Dove can be seen dropping cash on the hood of the car.

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.

"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.

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."

Critics believe deputies have been avoiding court oversight by leaning on drivers to abandon their cash rather than seizing it and giving warnings rather than tickets.
This isn't happening in some developing country. This is the United States of America.

None of this would be happening without the pointless war on drugs. If we decriminalized drugs in this country and provided for treatment and rehab instead, we would generate tax revenue, reduce the number of addicts, dramatically reduce crime, and allow police to work on real problems like murder, theft, missing persons, rape, and all the other major crimes that seem to be curiously understaffed by comparison. Even (gasp) white collar crime.

Historians are going to look back at us and hang their heads in shock at our barbarity. They're going to curse us for our failure to act on climate change, mock us for our neanderthal treatment of the drug problem, shake their heads in disbelief at our approaches to economic inequality and labor rights, and deride us for our dismal shortsightedness in the pursuit of just world fallacies and the enforcement of a perverted sense of cosmic justice.

I only hope that the record will show that some of us were ahead of our time and fought for sanity and decency. We weren't all barbarians.

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