Caswell Family Fights Feds to Keep Small BusinessOctober 31st, 2012
The myriad ways in which the War on Drugs has gotten out of control are too numerous to catalog in one sitting. For those looking for another item to add to such a list, consider civil forfeiture abuse. Police departments at various levels often seize property allegedly connected to drug-related crimes. Assets are unceremoniously snatched and stolen, typically without due process, and, sometimes, with money as the motive, rather than public safety.
This week, the Institute for Justice and the Caswell family are teaming up to fight back against an effort by the Feds to steal Motel Caswell. This family-owned business was built by Russ Caswell’s father in 1955. Now, just as the elderly Caswells are retiring, the government seeks to take their motel under civil forfeiture laws simply because a few individuals staying at the motel over the past two decades were caught with drugs. No one in the Caswell family has been accused of any crime whatsoever. Check out the video below, provided by the Institute for Justice.
Civil Forfeiture: Guilty Until Proven Innocent
Due process is an expected part of the US legal system. Citizens believe that they should have the right to a trial before their freedoms are taken in criminal proceedings. However, civil forfeiture sits in a civil-criminal gray area, where governments exercise claims over items without a trial, requiring property owners to sue to reclaim their own belongings.
The process is very lucrative for police departments, as many are furnished with new equipment funded by the sale of forfeited property. Poorer property owners often cannot afford the legal costs associated with fighting civil forfeiture.
Small Business Owners Make for Easy Targets
There’s a reason why Motel Caswell is the target of a civil forfeiture claim, rather than a national chain of extended stay hotels. As a small business with paid-off property, the government stands to gain full control over the lucrative motel, which it can then sell for serious cash. Meanwhile, the family being targeted doesn’t have an army of lawyers on retainer like a huge hotel conglomerate would.
Were it not for the Institute for Justice, the Caswell family might have lost their business and livelihood with no recourse whatsoever. However, fate has teamed up this week’s Rebel of the Week winners in an epic struggle against the man. On November 5th, Britain’s Guy Fawkes Day, Institute for Justice attorneys will enter the John Joseph Moakley US Courthouse in Boston to defend Motel Caswell against civil forfeiture.
For standing on the side of private property rights and freedom, the Institute for Justice and the Caswell family have earned this week’s Rebel of the Week award.
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