Ike Luong will serve six months in the county jail. That time behind bars will be followed by five years of probation — supervision — for his conviction of second-degree sale of drugs.
Luon, 56, of Las Vegas was stopped by Minnesota’s State Patrol for a busted taillight. When law enforcement searched his car, they found 130 pounds of pot in his car. Luon figured a plea deal would be best. His cooperation knocked down a first-degree sale of drugs and wiped out a first-degree drug possession charge.
The Judge, Gordon Moore, gave Luon a stay from prison but fined him $1,000. Luong, who must report to jail by June 4, but could get work release if he finds a job.
The Judge admitted he wrestled with the sentencing since there was no context for someone in Luong’s situation. Luong didn’t have any prior felonies and was a veteran of the Nevada National Guard.
“Usually when we sentence someone, Moor said, “we look at what the court did the last time someone committed the same crime. With 130 pounds of pot, we didn’t have a last time.”
Luong was lucky. A woman in Texas ended up dead following a traffic stop and a man in Nevada watched as cops illegally seized $50,000 following a stop for going three-miles-an-hour over the limit.
While police throughout the nation move from “to protect and to serve” to more of a law enforcement stance, many are wondering what cops can do when they pull someone over for a so-called “traffic violation.”
The first thing the cop is worried about is his safety. The driver should turn the engine off, put the window down and stay inside.
The officer must explain why he pulled you over and ask for the driver’s license, the car’s registration and proof of insurance.
Sandra Bland, of Texas, was pulled over as she smoked. While the cop examined her documents, he told her to put out her cigarette. Legally, Bland was within her rights to continue smoking, but if a cop feels they’re in jeopardy by the driver’s actions, they can demand the driver stop what they’re doing.
Bland was recording the incident on her phone as was another individual several dozen feet from the cop.
“You need to stop taping and leave,” the cop said to the bystander.
“Are we on public property?” asked the person who continued to film.
“An officer should never tell someone, not to video,” explains Nicholas Wooldridge, a Las Vegas, criminal defense attorney.
But having the right to do specific things doesn’t always mean you should do them,” Wooldridge added.
It comes down to what you want to do later. Bland was arrested and died three-days later while she was in jail.
“Do you want to make a stand for justice? Or do you want to go home?” points out Wooldridge.
A cop can permit a lot of leeways or be harsh. And every bit can be legally justified.
There must be greater clarity.
Policing For Profit
In 2014 Tan Nguyen was pulled over for going three MPH over the speed limit. That was the start of his problems. Nguyen saw a Nevada deputy confiscate $50,000.
Nguyen was neither arrested or charged with a crime. Not even a traffic ticket.
He filed a lawsuit in federal court. His argument was simple. He felt his civil rights were violated by an unconstitution search and seizure.’ Nguyen claimed Deputy Lee Dove, who had stopped him for speeding, threaten to seize and tow his car unless he got in, drove off and forget “this ever happened.”
Nguyen won when he had his day in court. In a settlement, Nguyen was reimbursed for the cash taken. Another $10,000 was awarded for attorney fees.
The settlement Nguyen was awarded doesn’t change Nevada’s draconian civil forfeiture laws.
Nevada’s current system permits law enforcement to “seize property under a legal standard lower than the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard used in criminal convictions. ”
The individuals beard the burden of proof. Instead of being presumed innocent, they are presumed guilty and have to prove their innocence.
It’s no surprise Nevada was given a D- for “Policing for Profit.