Article from Reason by Jacob Sullum.

According to the story the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office is telling, Phil Parhamovich was moved during a traffic stop last March to donate $91,800, his life savings, to the state’s Division of Criminal Investigation to help it wage the war on drugs. Parhamovich’s version is rather more plausible: He says state police took his money after pressuring him to sign a “waiver” that circumvented even the limited protections offered by Wyoming’s civil asset forfeiture law. Today Parhamovich is in state court, trying to get his money back with help from the Institute for Justice, which argues that Wyoming’s roadside waivers are a thin disguise for highway robbery.

Parhamovich, a Wisconsin musician, was on his way to a gig in Salt Lake City on March 13 when a state trooper, Jeramy Pittsley, pulled him over on Interstate 80 in Laramie County for failing to buckle his seat belt. The stop turned into an interrogation, during which Pittsley asked, “Is there anything in your vehicle I should know about, such as guns, drugs, large amounts of cash, methamphetamines, heroin, cocaine, marijuana, PCP, LSD, etc.?” Parhamovich, startled that Pittsley suddenly suspected him of criminal activity, said no.

Pittsley walked a drug-sniffing dog around Parhamovich’s minivan. “At first,” the Institute for Justice says, “the dog seemed to find nothing interesting about the vehicle. Then, the trooper gestured with what appeared to be a hidden tennis ball, and the dog responded.” The cops used that “alert” as an excuse to search the minivan, and eventually they found $91,800 inside a speaker cabinet. The cops were so excited by their discovery that they high-fived each other. The windfall also apparently made them forget that there was no trace of the drugs that Pittsley’s dog supposedly had detected.

Parhamovich had earned the money legally, largely by fixing guitars and selling old farmhouses after renovating them. He brought the cash with him when he went on tour because he worried that it wouldn’t be safe at his apartment in Madison. He planned to used $80,000 of it for a down payment on a Madison recording studio he was in the process of buying.

Read the entire article at Reason.

Image Credit: By Jamelle Bouie [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons