In many cases civil asset forfeiture is legalized theft from innocent property owners who have little recourse to get their property back. Institute for Justice, mentioned in the article, takes a lot of these cases pro bono and is an excellent recipient for your liberty-minded donations (I donate). From Rand Paul at rare.us:
“Innocent until proven guilty” is the bedrock of American jurisprudence. Civil asset forfeiture, a legal process in which the government confiscates your property without a guilty verdict, turns that justice on its head.
Take the case of the Motel Caswell in Tewksbury, Massachusetts. In 2009, owner Russ Caswell found himself the target of a civil forfeiture claim by the federal government and his local police department, even though he had never been accused – much less convicted – of a crime. It should also be noted that, historically, the motel had a good working relationship with the police, even providing them with free rooms for stakeouts and contacting them about suspicious activities.
The government’s basis for seizing the property? Fifteen “drug-related incidents” over a 14-year period – out of around 196,000 rooms rented.
In its reporting on the case, WBUR recounted how a DEA agent testified that it was his job “to seek out targets for forfeiture by watching television news and reading newspapers” and to check the Registry of Deeds after discovering properties where drug crimes had taken place. The Motel Caswell, with a more than $1 million value and lack of mortgage, became the focus of a combined effort between the DEA and the local police, according to the agent.
If the Caswells had lost, the federal government and local police department could have split the proceeds of selling the property under so-called “equitable sharing” – with the police department keeping up to 80 percent of the profit.
With the help of the Institute for Justice, which took on their case pro bono, the Caswells triumphed in court. But not every story gets such a happy ending.
To continue reading: Rand Paul: Civil asset forfeiture turns the American justice system on its head