Lawsuit Against Police in Illegal Cash Seizure Case Moving Forward5 years ago
In April 2013, poker players John Newmerzhycky and William Davis were travelling back to CA from a World Series of Poker event. Police pulled poker players over because they allegedly failed to signal as they were changing lanes. They searched the car without a warrant and decided to seize more than $100,000 of their bankroll. A lawsuit which was filed against two Iowa State Patrol troopers who seized their bankroll can move forward, a judge ruled.
According to the lawsuit filed by the two poker players, the pull-over, search and the seizure by two Iowa State Patrol troopers was unconstitutional. Davis and Newmerzhycky are looking to retrieve the rest of the money (state agreed to return $90k) and to be compensated for all the problems this caused for them, including a stroke that John suffered due to stress.
James Gritzner, US District Judge, ruled that the lawsuit against Justin Simmons and Eric VanderWiel can move forward as well as lawsuit filed against Desert Snow. Desert Snow is a company that trains officers for doing roadside searches in order to find drugs, money and guns. Civil liberties advocates and the lawsuit claim that Desert Snow is teaching questionable practices and improper techniques to justify searches conducted without any valid reason.
Even though the police said that John and William failed to signal when they were changing lanes, the video from Justin Simmon’s patrol cruiser showed differently. The footage shows that Newmerzhycky, who was driving the car when the police pulled them over, did not fail to signal.
During this warrant-less search the police also found a small amount of marijuana. John Newmerzhycky pleaded guilty to a possession of drug charges but refused to fold in the battle against the state to claim his money back.
As it was reported Iowa State Patrol troopers have seized $7m in currency from 2011 through 2013. Some judges have ruled that Iowa troopers are using their position by searching motorists and out of state drivers without a reason that would cause a suspicion of any criminal activity.
The police certainly has a good reason to pull over numerous people as the law enforcement agencies in Iowa receive 100% of proceeds from the civil forfeitures they initiate. In Iowa, a police office can seize your money if they suspect that the money is connected to some criminal activity.
The lawyer who filed poker players’ lawsuit said that there is nothing illegal and wrong in carrying cash but the law enforcement is treating people who carry cash like common criminals.
It is clear that two Iowa State Patrol troopers had neither a warrant to search the car nor a good reason to pull them over. They seized the money without proper investigation which certainly affected lives of Newmerzhycky and Davis. Based on this, the judge decided that he can't dismiss the lawsuit filed against two Iowa State Patrol troopers and that the case is good to proceed to trial.
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