Friday, September 16, 2005

6 Marijuana Plants Could Cost Woman Home

GLENN PUIT, LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL - A Boulder City woman who pleaded no contest to possession of six marijuana plants could lose her house over the case. Officials in the small town, which prides itself on being the only community in the state that doesn't allow gambling, said their move to seize Cynthia Warren's home is intended to send a message that drugs won't be tolerated in Boulder City. "In the drug world, this thing is probably nothing," said City Attorney Dave Olsen. "But in a town of 15,000 people where we have one or two children die every year because of controlled substances, it is a big deal to us."

Olsen, who pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor drunken driving charge in 2004, further defended the attempt to take Warren's residence using drug seizure laws, saying police suspected the home was being used for drug dealing.

However, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada said the attempted seizure is disturbing. "The police . . . get to eat what they kill," said Allen Lichtenstein, an ACLU attorney. "They have an incentive to fund themselves through these seizures, and it can be very disproportionate (to the crime). A misdemeanor, yet a fine that takes away the entire property?" . . .

After the plea was entered, Olsen filed a civil action in District Court seeking a judge's permission to seize Warren's home. The 2,000-square-foot house has an assessed taxable value of more than $288,000, according to Clark County records. . .

Veteran Las Vegas attorney Charles Kelly, a former federal prosecutor, said generally speaking state and federal law allows law enforcement agencies to confiscate property or money deemed "proceeds, product or instrumentality of a crime." He said the practice is becoming more common.

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