The Washington Post criticizes the U.S. Justice Department for trying to seize the Motel Caswell near Boston via an asset forfeiture proceeding. The hotel owner is not accused of criminal wrongdoing but of being the scene of at least 100 drug investigations since 1994. For owners not accused of a crime, federal seizure of assets is undue punishment, asserts a Post editorial.
Local law enforcement groups that team up with the federal government may be awarded up to 80 percent of the proceeds from seizures. The Institute for Justice, which represents the motel owner, says such “equitable sharing” payments from the federal government to states have increased dramatically in recent years, from $200 million in 2000 to roughly $400 million in 2008. There are better alternatives to address legitimate public safety goals in cases like this, the Post says. Most jurisdictions have nuisance laws that can be used to force owners to literally and figuratively clean up their properties.