Former Marine Fights To Get His Life Savings Back

In February 2021, while driving down a Nevada highway on the way to visit his daughters, Stephen Lara was robbed in plain sight. But his assailants were not ordinary criminals—they were police officers from Nevada Highway Patrol.

Using a controversial legal tactic called civil forfeiture, the officers fabricated a reason to stop Lara, detained him for more than an hour, and eventually left with his entire life savings. The officers never alleged he’d done anything illegal, but they took Stephen’s money to hand over to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), in the anticipation that the federal agency could take Stephen’s money and kick back a portion of the proceeds to the Highway Patrol through a program called “equitable sharing.”

Stephen, who is a decorated Marine Corps veteran who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq, is no stranger to a fight, and so he partnered with the IJ to file a lawsuit to shut down the Nevada Highway Patrol’s civil forfeiture scheme.

In less than 24 hours, the DEA had learned of our lawsuit, answered hard questions from The Washington Post, committed to reviewing its policies for federal adoptions—and agreed to return his money.. But the fight isn’t over: IJ and Stephen our continuing our case so that no one else in Nevada has their rights violated the way Stephen’s were.

“Police officers have a duty to protect and serve the public, not rob them of their life savings. I fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. I’ve seen abuses by government firsthand. I never thought I’d see it in my own country.”
IJ Client Stephen Lara

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