I-80 drug stops allowed a rural Nevada sheriff to steal tens of thousands of dollars from motorists who were never convicted or even accused of crimes, and it was all legal.
The drug stops have Humboldt County Sheriff Ed Kilgore in hot water after his department’s practice of stopping cars on US Interstate 80 under the guise of drug enforcement has coming to light. Two men — one from California and another from Colorado — have filed federal lawsuits about the I-80 drug stops, claiming that deputies seized tens of thousand of dollars for no reason at all.
In one of the cases, deputies took a briefcase filled with $50,000 cash and the other man had deputies seize $13,800 in cash and a handgun. Kilgore claims the forfeitures are legal if the officer suspects that the money was either obtained illegally or would be used illegally. No actual accusation of wrongdoing or proof of any kind is needed.
“It’s pretty scary to be out in the middle of nowhere on the side of the road and be told all your stuff is going to be taken away,” said attorney Jeff Dickerson, who is representing one of the men in the lawsuit.
The sheriff tried to ease rumors that the department was looking to fleece motorists of money during the I-80 drug stops.
“What I’m hearing on the street is that we stop you and ask you for your license, registration and your insurance, and how much money do you have? That simply is not how it is ever done,” Kilgore told a group of concerned citizens at a meeting arranged this week.
In both of the lawsuits filed against department, deputies found no drugs in the car and did not arrest either man. But their vehicles were impounded, and deputies told the men that the cars would only be released if they forfeited their cash.
Humboldt County officials are defending the I-80 drug stops. District Attorney Michael Macdonald said that the individuals had the right to go to court and prove that the money was legally obtained, but critics say that is perverting the legal system and making them guilty until proven innocent.