Forfeiture Attorney: Iowa’s Cash Seizure Cops Target Out-of-State Drivers

I’m an attorney, I handle significant forfeiture cases and I know that Iowa’s cash seizure cops do target our-of-state drivers. A few months back I posted an Editorial from the Des Moines Register, “Patrol forfeitures target out-of-state drivers“. I didn’t say much about it at the time so I wanted to revisit the editorial and discuss it for my readers.

The editorial was written days 4 days after the Iowa Supreme Court decided In the Matter of Property Seized from Pardee. Pardee, is a case that I litigated in the District Court, Iowa Court of Appeals and ultimately won in the Iowa Supreme Court. Pardee is a cash seizure/forfeiture case involving $33,100.00 in seized cash. An Iowa State Trooper claimed he initially stopped Mr. Pardee and Pardee’s friend for several minor traffic offenses. While, technically true, the Trooper really stopped Mr. Pardee because he wanted to conduct an interdiction investigation to determine whether Pardee had drugs or cash in the vehicle. The Trooper found a few joints and the $33,100.00 in cash in the car. Mr. Pardee was acquitted of all drug charges but the State still forfeited his cash. I argued repeatedly that the Trooper’s actions violated Mr. Pardee’s constitutional rights and the Iowa Supreme Court eventually sided with me. The Court ruled that the Trooper’s actions violated Mr. Pardee’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from illegal searches and seizures.

Importantly, in Pardee, Trooper Eric Vander Weil admitted that he and other members of the Iowa State Patrol Interdiction Teams target out-of-state drivers for these so-called “interdiction stops” – traffic stops not made for traffic enforcement but which are actually intended to result in a search of the stopped vehicle. According to the editorial, the testimony I elicited from Tooper Vander Weil directly contradicted the official line out of the Iowa State Patrol –

“I can tell you, we’re not targeting out-of-staters. We’re out there enforcing the law, and they make a traffic stop, and that’s when they find the criminal activity that’s occurring coming across the interstates.” – Sgt. Scott Bright, Iowa State Patrol.

In addition, I also secured Trooper Vander Weil’s warning and citation data (collectively “tickets”) via an Iowa open records request. The data revealed that he wrote over 90% of his tickets to out-of-state drivers.

Something is most assuredly wrong when law enforcement must blatantly lie to the public about their actions and motives. Surely, if there were nothing “suspect” in either, there would be no need for dishonesty. As an attorney who regularly fights forfeiture cases, I find the Iowa State Patrol’s actions to be incredibly disturbing and I applaud the Des Moines Register for their editorial. I am happy to have shed light on the subject and will keep fighting hard to ensure the protection of everyone’s constitutional rights, including our friends from the other 49 states.

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