This just in from the Institute for Justice:
“Putting to rest the most contentious civil forfeiture fight in the nation, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston today announced it will not appeal a federal court’s decision that dismissed the civil forfeiture action filed against the Motel Caswell, a family-run motel in Tewksbury, Mass. In January, Magistrate Judge Judith G. Dein of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts concluded that the motel was not subject to forfeiture under federal law and that its owners were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing. Download the federal court ruling.
“The Caswell family has been put through the wringer by the federal government for over three years, and we are thrilled that this law-abiding family is now finally safe from civil forfeiture,” said Scott Bullock, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice. “The Caswells stood to lose everything for which they had worked so hard. This case epitomizes everything that is wrong with civil forfeiture laws and why they are in such desperate need of reform. We will build off of this victory in future cases to once and for all end civil forfeiture and the inevitable abuses that surround it.”
“The government had sought to take the Motel Caswell from the Caswell family under the theory that the motel allegedly facilitated drug crimes. But, in her opinion, Judge Dein found that Mr. Caswell “did not know the guests involved in the drug crimes, did not know of their anticipated criminal behavior at the time they registered as guests, and did not know of the drug crimes while they were occurring.”
“In her opinion, the court also lambasted the federal government’s case as “not supported by a scintilla of evidence” and accused the government of engaging in “gross exaggeration.””
I would have liked to see an appeal that could establish that civil forfeiture laws in general violate constitutional due process guarantees, but maybe this will empower others to go further.