Nevada man claims illegal search and seizure in Iowa traffic stop

Published: Dec. 15, 2015 at 2:47 PM CST
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A Nevada man with ties to Eastern Iowa is accusing the Iowa State Patrol of illegally seizing his property during a traffic stop Friday.

Last Friday was the same day the Iowa Supreme Court curbed the power of police to seize or keep cash or other contraband from drivers not charged or convicted of related crimes.

Tim Callahan, of Reno, Nevada, said he was driving to visit his mother in the Cedar Rapids-area last Friday when he was pulled over by an Iowa State Patrol officer on I-80 six miles east of Council Bluffs.

The trooper cited Callahan for going 62 mph in a 55-miles-per-hour zone.

Callahan said the trooper wrote a speeding ticket and then made him and a passenger wait for a drug dog to come to the scene.

When that drug dog allegedly “hit” on an illegal substance in the car, the trooper took the vehicle to a nearby state patrol post and kept Callahan and his passenger in a holding area for three hours.

But Callahan said the search turned up no drugs or nothing else illegal. He said the officer told him investigators were keeping the laptop computers, tablets and phones belonging to the two for a possible criminal investigation.

“I was shocked. I couldn’t imagine what gave him the right to do that. There has to be probable cause before you can seize property like that,” Callahan said.

The case of Robert Pardee, decided by the state’s high court last Friday, appears to have some items in common with Callahan’s traffic stop.

In that case, Pardee was cited by officers for a small amount of marijuana during a traffic stop in 2012. He was later acquitted by a jury. But the state has not returned more than $33,000 in cash seized during the traffic stop.

The state high court ruled that officers could not detain people unnecessarily long while writing a traffic ticket to allow a drug detection dog to arrive on the scene unless there was other compelling evidence of wrongdoing to investigate.

Callahan said he has hired a lawyer in Council Bluffs who filed a motion in court to get the electronic items back from police and squash any search warrant based on a claim of illegal search.

The Nevada man said he only learned about the high court ruling in the 2012 seizure and forfeiture case over the weekend while researching legal help for his case.

Callahan admits he served time on a federal marijuana conspiracy charge in Iowa back in the 1990s. He wonders if the officer got that court information record while checking his background during the traffic stop.

But Callahan said that should not be considered probable cause for seizing property belonging to him and a passenger during a routine stop for speeding.

He intends to pursue a civil case against the state for illegal seizure of his property.

An Iowa State Patrol spokesperson in Des Moines has not commented about this seizure case yet.