Do Federal Forfeiture Laws Violate Tenth Amendment?

By:  Joe Wolverton, II
11/01/2011
       
Do Federal Forfeiture Laws Violate Tenth Amendment?

The fight to enforce the mandates of the Tenth Amendment continues as one local police department looks to line its pockets by “cooperating” with the feds in exchange for a cut of the money derived from seizures of property associated with drug busts.

In an unusual twist on the now typical scenario of a state government refusing to accede to the demands of an overreaching federal authority, the most recent defense of the right of a state to be self-governing is coming from a private citizen.

Russell Caswell’s family has owned the Motel Caswell in Tewskbury, Massachusetts, for nearly half a century, but because of a drug deal carried out by a guest, the federal government is claiming the right to seize the property and wrest the inn from the Caswell family.

Mr. Caswell, 68, is not going down without a fight, however. He is determined to keep the $57-a-night motel in the family. Caswell’s position is buoyed by a recent Supreme Court decision where a similar issue was raised. Put simply, Caswell’s legal team avers that the Department of Justice cannot seize property where the owner of the property is not accused of any crime. In the present case, Mr. Caswell is not charged with any crime. For its part, the DOJ is seeking application of a law that authorizes seizure of property where the property is the site of criminal activity.

The fight to enforce the mandates of the Tenth Amendment continues as one local police department looks to line its pockets by “cooperating” with the feds in exchange for a cut of the money derived from seizures of property associated with drug busts.

In an unusual twist on the now typical scenario of a state government refusing to accede to the demands of an overreaching federal authority, the most recent defense of the right of a state to be self-governing is coming from a private citizen.

Russell Caswell’s family has owned the Motel Caswell in Tewskbury, Massachusetts, for nearly half a century, but because of a drug deal carried out by a guest, the federal government is claiming the right to seize the property and wrest the inn from the Caswell family.

Mr. Caswell, 68, is not going down without a fight, however. He is determined to keep the $57-a-night motel in the family. Caswell’s position is buoyed by a recent Supreme Court decision where a similar issue was raised. Put simply, Caswell’s legal team avers that the Department of Justice cannot seize property where the owner of the property is not accused of any crime. In the present case, Mr. Caswell is not charged with any crime. For its part, the DOJ is seeking application of a law that authorizes seizure of property where the property is the site of criminal activity.

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