The federal government collects billions of dollars each year through asset forfeiture – that is, through seizing cash, real estate, cars, and personal property of U.S. citizens.  The government often alleges the property owner has committed a crime, making the property “forfeitable” and granting the government the right to seize the property.  In a recent case in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, the government did just that.  The government brought suit against the Caswell family, owners of the Caswell Motel, to seize the motel property on grounds that the property was connected to 15 drug-related crimes.  The Caswells argued that they had nothing to do with the crimes, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Dein ruled in their favor.  She held that the government failed to meet the burden of proving the connection between the motel property and the drug crimes in order to deem the property “forfeitable.”  This judgment could indicate a trend toward preventing the government from seizing private property unless it can prove a substantial reason for doing so.

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