Marine Veteran’s Lawsuit Against Nevada State Police Moves Forward, Challenging Unjust Civil Forfeiture Laws

RENO, Nev. – A lawsuit challenging Nevada’s civil forfeiture laws, filed by a Marine veteran whose life savings were seized during a routine traffic stop, will proceed after a judge denied the state’s motion to dismiss. The incident happened nearly three years ago when Stephen Lara was pulled over on I-80 near USA Parkway for allegedly following a semi-truck too closely.

During the traffic stop, troopers confiscated a total of $87,000 in cash from Lara’s vehicle, despite not arresting him or charging him with any crime. Lara, who was on a journey to visit his daughters in Portola, California, had his entire life savings taken away. These events prompted him to partner with the Institute for Justice and file a lawsuit against the Nevada Department of Public Safety.

The state’s attorneys argued that Nevada law did not explicitly allow for lawsuits like Lara’s. However, the court unanimously recognized that the enforcement of rights requires a corresponding legal remedy, stating, “We simply recognize the long-standing legal principle that a right does not, as a practical matter, exist without a remedy for its enforcement.”

This ruling represents a significant step towards justice for Lara and others who have been affected by unfair civil forfeiture laws. Attorney Ben Field from the Institute for Justice expressed hope that the government should have to prove wrongdoing before seizing someone’s money or property, emphasizing the importance of adhering to the Nevada Constitution.

Lara expressed his excitement about the court’s decision, asserting that all his claims against the Nevada State Police will now be heard on their merits. He hopes that his case will ultimately lead to a victory that prevents others from experiencing the same injustice he did.

The court’s ruling sets the stage for a legal battle that will explore the constitutionality of Nevada’s civil forfeiture laws and determine the rights of individuals in similar situations. In the meantime, Lara’s case shines a spotlight on the broader issue of civil forfeiture and the need for reform to ensure the protection of citizens’ property rights.

In conclusion, a judge’s decision to allow a lawsuit challenging Nevada’s civil forfeiture laws to proceed brings hope for Marine veteran Stephen Lara, who had his life savings seized during a routine traffic stop. This development signifies a significant step towards justice and the potential for reforms in civil forfeiture practices.