When Phil Parhamovich was pulled over in Wyoming in 2016, he never thought his life would be turned upside down for a minor traffic violation: a $25 seatbelt fine. During the encounter, police seized his entire life savings of $91,000 that Parhamovich was carrying inside his car stuffed inside a speaker.
When the story broke online last week, it caused a firestorm through social media, and within hours Phil Parhamovich was sitting in front of a judge. Little did he know that this injustice would be quickly set aright so long as Parhamovich signed a statement affirming that the money indeed belonged to him.
Alongside him was the Institute of Justice lawyer Anya Bidwell. They were greeted by legislators from within the state of Wyoming who had read about Parhamovich’s case and was concerned about the legality of the process known as civil forfeiture.
Civil forfeiture is a police state tactic utilized by municipalities and law enforcement officials around the country to seize the property of citizens. The logic goes that if you cut off drug dealers from their assets, then they can no longer operate. Another failed strategy in the failed war on drugs. The reality is that police utilize this loophole to line the pockets of local departments or to help themselves out personally.
Fortunately, this case received such widespread media attention that justice will truly be served. Parhamovich will now be able to follow through with his dream of opening his own studio in Madison, Wisconsin. The same studio that once recorded songs for Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins will now be home to Parhamovich once the closing of the deal commences.
Parhamovich should receive his money within the next few weeks. However, this does not take away from the public spotlight that should continue to be shown on the issue of civil forfeiture and its abuse by police authorities nationwide.
Hopefully, this is the beginning of a cultural shift toward holding policemen and women accountable when they abuse their authority for financial gain. Civil forfeiture is one of the worst tools the state has created to fight the trumped up “War on Drugs.”
A war we have lost, I might add…