Regular Folks Fighting Civil Forfeiture Abuse


Having been a victim of Eminent Domain, I have had a keen interest in Civil forfeiture. Though not the same, the conclusion is. We usually associate it with drug dealers. Early I had posted:Government confiscation any differenet from armed robbery? But this story takes it to a new level. If anyone doubts that we are in the last days of this Republic, this should end it for you. Here tis.

Civil forfeiture—where the government can take and sell your property without ever charging you with a crime, let alone convicting you of one—is one of the greatest threats to property rights in the nation.  To make matters worse, such forfeitures often fund law enforcement officials’ budgets, given them a direct financial incentive to abuse this power.  A prime example of the civil forfeiture abuse is taking place in Tewksbury, Mass., 30 minutes outside of Boston.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Tewksbury police department are demanding the Caswells forfeit the entire property—worth more than a million dollars— because a tiny fraction of people who have stayed at the Motel Caswell during the past 20 years have been arrested for crimes.  Keep in mind, the Caswells themselves have worked closely with law enforcement officials to prevent and report crime on their property.  And the arrests the government complains of represent less than .0005 percent of the 125,000 rooms the Caswells have rented over that period of time.

The government does not allege that the Caswells have done anything illegal.  But under civil forfeiture laws, innocent people can lose their property—with no compensation whatsoever—if the government believes it was used to “facilitate a crime.”  So unless the Caswells can prove in court that they did everything they could do to prevent crime on their land, the motel—everything they have worked their lives for—will become the government’s property.  In short, civil forfeiture treats law abiding citizens worse than criminals, presuming them guilty until they can prove their innocence—a heavy burden for any property owner against the power and resources of the government.

The Motel Caswell is a family-owned budget motel in Tewksbury.  Russell and Pat Caswell have owned and operated the motel for nearly 30 years, since they took over management from Russ’s father in the 1980s.  They live next door with Pat’s 91-year-old mother, their son and daughter-in-law, and granddaughter, tending to the business.  Having survived for two generations as entrepreneurs, the Caswells have paid off the mortage on the motel and they expected it to provide a nest egg for retirement.

Precisely because it is mortgage-free, the motel has now become an attractive target for taking by federal and local law enforcement officials who seek to cash in on what the Caswells have earned.

For our legal beagles out there, this is a great run down of how this abuse occurs and the justification, go to Institute for Justice

13 Responses to “Regular Folks Fighting Civil Forfeiture Abuse”

  1. Silverviddle Says:

    How did we get to the point that this can even be considered a legitimate act of government?

    City governments are doing this all over the US. Denver routinely impounds vehicles of suspected criminals. When you are found not guilty and go to retrieve your property, you are charged hundreds or thousands of dollars to free what was seized, even though you did not commit the crime.

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    • bunkerville Says:

      I think we let this slip by because these were thugs in our mind. Now there are court rullings which permit this. Drip, drip goes our freedoms. First they come for our bad guys, then for us, I guess. Under this premise, other bad actions on our part, allows the government to confiscate.

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  2. D Charles Says:

    Putting on my legal hat (I am a lawyer) I must automatically assume that the full story is not shown because civil forfeiture laws under the Civil Forfeiture Act is in fact very clear and there has to be clear evidence of “qualititative benefit” to the owners in question AND credibile links of those owners to crime and/or terrorism – the latter being a new insert. In most cases civil forfeiture is a response to organised crime.

    We also have civil forfeiture laws in the UK (we call it the Proceeds of Crime Act) and it is a more recent creation (2002). In your case it has been around in a number of States from the early 1980s.

    Now taking off my hat, I would also be concerned about the “conflict of interest” issue of which over is of less concern because the law enforcement agency itself has no stake or claim to that property in question. just doing a bit of reading, some of the numbers and increases in confiscations in areas within your country are “alarming” to say the least! The State of Texas has had a number of scandals that I have read about and we should be fair to point out that it has been under the watch of a number of Governors, including one that became President (and who pubically considered the such a system as being a success and remarked that it removes “the alleged ill-gotten gains of drug kingpins and use them to put more cops on the streets.”

    The other area that personally conerns me is that the American and Canadian versions of asset seizure in this format often overrides the base princiiple of “burden of proof”, in other words the asset (the property in question) is confiscated and rather than the courts and prosecution being tasked with proving that it justifies the confiscation, the owner of the property must prove that the confiscation was wrong and injust (ie presumption of guilt, since it is an asset not a person). During that time life, business and reputation is ruined beyond repair). I hope the American love for suing will compensate enough!

    Either way, I would assume that since the risk of scandal, a huge legal suit and public embarassment is so high, that there is in fact a lot more to this case than is being reported (on both sides) and the issue here is really the judicial basis and justification of the entire system, not the case itself.

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    • D Charles Says:

      correction :

      “about the “conflict of interest” issue of which over is of less concern ” should have read

      “about the “conflict of interest” issue of which over HERE is of less concern “

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    • bunkerville Says:

      Isn’t this how the rule of law breaks down? First it starts with taking the rights away from those for which we have contempt? IIll gotton gains, thus before there is even a trial, the “goods” or property is confiscated. That is how we have lost so much with the Patriot Act– its purpose was to defeat the enemy. Of course eveyone was on Board. Now we find out what a government can do to its citizens if the Govenment intentions are not honorable, This is what happened to the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover. We should have learned. He had his :enemies list. Freedom drips away. We must be on guard. Thanks for your thoughtful post as always.

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  3. arnonerik Says:

    What about the the D.O.J., the A.T.F. and other Federal Agencies being involved in crimes (Fast and Furious) resulting in many American and Mexican deaths.Does Civil Forfeiture Apply against them? Can we the people legally seize those Agencies or is this a one way street that only benefits the Government?

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    • bunkerville Says:

      The street can only end at the next election, and we rid ourselves of this evil doing. It will be the last stop for the real freedom bus, taking your analogy into account.

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  4. Bob Mack Says:

    The biggest criminals are the ones we’ve elected to public office.

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  5. republicanmother Says:

    I’ve heard of this thing before – we have complete lawlessness in the country. Just in case you haven’t encountered, doesn’t mean it can’t happen to you. This stuff makes me soo mad!!

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    • bunkerville Says:

      This is the first time I have read about it happening to other than Drug dealers. They will come for the farms next. Claiming some form of illegal activity. You betcha

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  6. Conservatives on Fire Says:

    I have never heard of anything so bizarre as this in America. Civil forfeiture? Eminent Domain laws are bad enough and often abused but this is insane. If law enforcement want to bring charges against the owners and prove that the owners abetted and benefited from criminal activity at their motel, that would be one thing, using civil law in this manner is the real crime. God help us!

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    • bunkerville Says:

      Even if they abetted the criminal, they should be held criminal… but how does this fall into the Civil? I have gone to auctions of this stuff… drug dealers, and it always bothered me. They did not even have to be convicted for it to be sold. Because they were crmiminals, no one took it too seriously. Precendent set I am afraid.

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