Friday, February 17, 2012

Government Conspiracy to Defraud?

Su Casa es Mi Casa

Click here for related story [Washington Post]

On occasion, we agree with The Washington Post editorials.  Although in this case, even the Post is outraged by Government over-reach.

For years, federal and state governments have been abusing the Eminent Domain rule by which they are authorized to seize private property for the "public good".  Recently though, such seizures are becoming less and less for the common good, and more for the enrichment of local politicians.

In the case cited in this editorial, federal and local law enforcement are attempting to seize a local motel near Boston [Official Corruption in Boston?   Why, that's like saying there's corruption in Chicago!],

The situation in Tewksbury is that local law enforcement, with the Feds complicit, seized the Motel Caswell, not because the owners had committed a crime, but because crimes had been committed on the property.  Why, over an eight year period, seven crimes were listed at that motel -- which the Feds describe as "crime-ridden".

All that seems legally reasonable, until we learn that seized properties are then sold, with the proceeds split between the Federal and local governments.  Thus, if a local jurisdiction runs short of tax revenues, then a solution is to have the police designate a valuable property as "crime ridden", seize it, and sell it.  Let the owner try to fight City Hall.

By the Crime Ridden definition, a car-owner with one traffic ticket a year for eight years, from speeding to violating an HOV restriction to failure to driving on expired plates, could have his car seized by the Feds, since the car had been the "scene of multiple crimes".

Or, your house could be seized by the Feds and local police if your teenager happened to be Ferris Bueller or Joel Goodman [Tom Cruise] in Risky Business.

Or, if your teenager hosts a pot party while you're at work, you could come home to find it sealed off by police tape as a "crime scene" and soon on the market as a "property seized in during a criminal activity."

According to the Post, Federal Law Enforcement  officials say "public safety" -- and not money -- is what motivates the seizure of  "crime-ridden" properties.  Of course, in these scenarios, it is up to the property owners to prove their innocence and had no connection to the "crimes" used as the basis for seizure.

Fortunately,  many jurisdictions are not as corrupt as Boston or Chicago and force the Feds and local police to exercise restraint and abide by the Fourth Amendment's restrictions on illegal seizures -- whereby "criminal forfeiture can take police only if the government wins a conviction against the owner."

We don't object to the police doing their jobs; we do object to using the police to violate the Constitution.