Russ Casswell and his family have owned and operated their motel for two generations in Tewksbury Massachusetts. No one in the family has committed any crimes, but because there were a few arrests on the premises in the past 20 years, the US Justice Department is going to seize the property using Federal “civil asset forfeiture” laws, which allow law enforcement to seize “guilty” property without due process for the owners. The “Justice” Department then sells the seized assets and gives part of the proceeds to local law enforcement where the property was seized. This is a perfect way for local officials to make money to pay for police without having to raise taxes on the locals.
The horrible part of this is the complete lack of recourse for the family, except to sue the US Government on behalf of the seized property. There is no guarantee they will be able to get it back, since they have to prove the property was not directly involved in any crimes. Yes, they have to “prove” their motel is “innocent” before they have a chance to get it back. These laws have only been in place since 1986, as part of the “War on Drugs” effort. The intent was to take property from drug criminals obtained with “guilty” money, and reimburse local law enforcement with the proceeds. The trouble is the law does not allow for “innocent until proven guilty” that other laws in the US require. Therefore, local law enforcement agencies have been able to use wider and wider definitions of “guilty property” in order to seize more and more from innocent people, and they use the power of the Federal Government to circumvent any local laws that might hinder them.
The Casswells are fighting back, however, they’re suing the US Government, and the people at the Institute for Justice are helping them. I hope they can win this case, for all our sakes! I mean, if I wanted to live in a country where nothing I own is safe from arbitrary seizure by a “Justice Department”, I’d go live somewhere like North Korea!
Watch the video, and go to http://www.ij.org/about/4058 to find out more, and how to contribute to the Casswell’s defense fund. It’s important, for all of us!