Asset Forfeiture Abuse on Trial in Federal Court

Next week in Boston the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts will hear argument in United States v. 434 Main Street, Tewskbury, Mass. If the name of the case sounds a little funny to you, wait until you hear the facts. At issue is a civil forfeiture proceeding launched against the Motel Caswell, a family-run business located at the address specified above. Because a very small number of the motel’s guests over the years have been arrested on drug charges, local and federal officials joined forces in order to seize the property (without paying compensation). Never mind that the Caswell family have not been convicted or even charged with any crime and that they always reported illegal activity on their property when they became aware of it and always cooperated with the police. The government wants that property.

Representing the Caswells next week in their legal fight is the Institute for Justice, which just released this helpful video laying out what’s at stake in the case.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    The government wants that property.

    All rights are granted by the State, and may be revoked at any time.

  • Tim||

    "If you see something, say something"

    If you see something say NOTHING!"

  • ||

    I'm still amazed after all the attention that's been brought to this case that the Government continues to pursue it. It invokes all the worst of my cynicism regarding The State. Anyone who looks at this case and can still excuse the Leviathan as an actor for Good is completely nuts.

    It's an actor for it's own self-perpetuation.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I continue to be amazed by this story. They're bringing suit against a property. It makes no sense.

  • R C Dean||

    It is, but suing property is sadly commonplace.

    What's completely nuts is that they are trying to seize property without any showing that the owner actually participated in any illegal activity.

  • ||

    Then why don't they just condemn it as a blight and use the ever popular "eminent domain" strategy?

    Why go the through the trouble of "questionable goings on" as an excuse for forfeiture?

    Serious question, IANAL.

  • robc||

    ED requires paying for it.

    With civil forfeiture, they get it for free.

  • sarcasmic||

    The property engaged in illegal activity by allowing drug deals to happen on it.

  • Laird||

    Suits against property ("in rem" actions) are very old in the common law. They often appeared in admiralty proceedings against ships (to collect for moorage fees, import duties, seamen's wages, etc.). What's new here is the civil forfeiture element: the owner of the property has done nothing wrong and owes no one money for which his property can be attached. That's what makes these civil asset forfeiture laws so evil.

  • robc||

    "Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats." -- H. L. Mencken

    This is the kind of thing that seriously makes me willing to go to war.

  • Brett L||

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the seizure thing specifically covered in an amendment to the Constitution. Seems like forcing people to quarter troops in their basement and quibbling about the text of the 3rd to me.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    When Obama gets to be President, this sort of abuse will be ended!

  • Knoss||

    Should courts provide property legal representation in civil forfeiture cases? http://www.theglobeandmail.com.....le4622179/

  • Anomalous||

    If the government wins, the Caswells should burn the property to the ground and salt the land.

  • Rasilio||

    I actually grew up not too far from there, we used to call the place "The no tell motel" because they rented rooms by the hour and pretty much the only reasons anyone stayed there was to get their freak on.

    There was even a Drive In about a mile from the place that tried to stay in business by showing adult movies for a while in the early 80's before finally going out of business. Course now that plot of land is a Home Depot.

  • amelia||

    This is a truly disgusting, nightmare scenario of the kind I grew up thinking simply could not happen in America. But they are happening all the time, all over the nation, and life just goes on.

  • Dan Givens||

    I know that the Federal government is guilty of many crimes. Does that mean I can now seize the tax dollars I would have had to otherwise pay?

  • sohbet||

    very super blogos thanks admin sohbet & sohbet odaları

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement