Massachussets small business owners win case against civil forfeiture abuse

Liberty Crier » IJ Scores Major Federal Court Victory In Massachusetts Civil Forfeiture Case:
http://libertycrier.com/government/ij-scores-major-federal-court-victory-in-massachusetts-civil-forfeiture-case/

Arlington, Va.—In a major triumph for property rights, a federal court in Massachusetts dismissed a civil forfeiture action against the Motel Caswell, a family-run motel in Tewksbury, handing a complete victory to owners Russell and Patricia Caswell. In one of the most contentious civil forfeiture fights in the nation, Magistrate Judge Judith G. Dein of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts concluded, based on a week-long bench trial in November 2012, that the motel was not subject to forfeiture under federal law and that its owners were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing.

The Institute for Justice and local counsel Schlossberg, LLC, brought the case to trial to expose the injustices of civil forfeiture laws that allow law enforcement agencies to pad their budgets by taking property from innocent owners who have never been convicted or even charged with a crime.

Further down in the article, we find something more telling and more ominous:

The Problem of civil forfeiture is widespread. In 1986, the year after the U.S. Department of Justice’s Asset Forfeiture Fund was created—the fund that holds the forfeiture proceeds from properties forfeited under federal law and available to be paid out to law enforcement agencies—it took in just $93.7 million. Today, it holds more than $1.6 billion. An Institute for Justice report, Inequitable Justice: How Federal “Equitable Sharing” Encourages Local Police and Prosecutors to Evade State Civil Forfeiture Law for Financial Gain, documents how the problem is growing worse. Between 2000 and 2008, equitable sharing payments from the U.S. Department of Justice to state and local law enforcement doubled from about $200 million to $400 million per year.

“Civil forfeiture is a draconian power that is too easily abused,” said Darpana Sheth, an IJ attorney. “This case epitomizes what an aggressive U.S. attorney wielding these laws can do to a small property owner like Russ Caswell.”

IJ President and General Counsel Chip Mellor said: “The Institute for Justice has documented time and again that civil forfeiture invites a lack of accountability, a lack of due process and a lack of restraints on government authority. Civil forfeiture needs to end. If the government wants to take someone’s property, it should first be required to convict that person of a crime. Short of that, you will end up with what the federal government tried to do in Tewksbury.”

You cannot trust governments with such power. You cannot trust them to handle issues that affect personal property with any “fairness” or “equality”, especially when their budgets would benefit.

Moral hazard, it’s called. Temptation by law. Power corrupts.

Imagine: “What were you thinking when you voted for this bill, Senator?” –“I wasn’t thinking”.

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