Wyoming Court Issues A Major Victory Against Asset Forfeiture, Returns Over $90K
Article from Reason by Jacob Sullum.
Phil Parhamovich went to court in Wyoming on Friday, hoping to convince a judge that he deserved a new hearing on the question of whether the state gets to keep the $91,800 that police took from him during a traffic stop last March. Instead the judge ordered the return of Parhamovich’s money after he testified that it belonged to him and he had no desire to surrender it. Attorney General Peter Michael said his office will return the money rather than pursue the case further.
Parhamovich, a Wisconsin musician, was on tour when he was pulled over on March 13 for failing to fasten his seat belt. A purported alert by a drug-sniffing dog led to a search of his minivan, during which the cops found no drugs but did discover cash hidden inside a speaker cabinet, which Parhamovich had brought with him because he worried that it wouldn’t be safe at his apartment in Madison. He planned to use most of the money as a down payment on a Madison recording studio. Because the police falsely insinuated that carrying large amounts of cash is illegal, Parhamovich initially said the speaker and the money belonged to a friend. The cops pressured him into signing a waiver “giving” the money to the state Department of Criminal Investigation.
The Institute for Justice, which represented Parhamovich, argues that police use roadside waivers like the one he signed are a thin disguise for highway robbery, bypassing even the modest protections that property owners have under Wyoming’s civil forfeiture law. “Phil would have lost his life savings over the fact that he didn’t wear a seat belt while driving through Wyoming,” I.J. attorney Dan Alban told the Associated Press. “That’s outrageous and needs to end.”
The unexpectedly quick resolution of the case was yet another victory against civil forfeiture abuse for I.J., which filed motions on Parhamovich’s behalf just two weeks before Friday’s order. Over the years, the libertarian law firm has repeatedly demonstrated the benefits of standing up to money-grabbing bullies. Here are half a dozen other cases in which I.J. clients got their property back after the organization publicized their predicaments…
Read the entire article at Reason.
Image Credit: By St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons