The Government tried to seize Russ Caswell's business and lost. Now he's going after the law they used to do it.
Let’s say you own a motel. You inherited it from your father who dreamt of building a business and passing it on to his children. As the years go by, the way motels are used changes for the worse. No longer are you up economical out-of-towners or locals who for some-reason-or-another can’t spend the night under their own roofs.
Instead, individuals buy the right to hind behind the door, purchasing the privacy they need to take drugs, sell their bodies, or otherwise break the law. You add security cameras and start demanding information from your guests. You offer the police free rooms so they can spy on and arrest the lawbreakers. Eventually, even though you committed no crimes, the police seizes your property and pockets 80 percent of the money when it’s sold.
While this sounds like a dystopian fiction, it is actually the story of Russ Caswell of Tewksbury, Massachusetts. He tells the story in an editorial in The Washington Times in order to spread the word about “civil forfeiture,” which is a little-known governmental power which allows them to seize a property linked to a crime, even if the owners are innocent. Not only did this happen to Mark, but testimony in court showed that Motel Caswell may have been targeted for no other reason than profit.
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Had the government seized the property, they would have immediately sold it. The police department in Tewksbury, according to Caswell’s editorial, would have pocketed about $800,000. However the Institute for Justice helped Caswell defend the case in court and he prevailed. Now, Caswell is lobbying Congress to reform this policy in order to protect other individual business owners from “policing for profit.”