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United States v. One Clipper Bow Ketch NISKU

    Brief Fact Summary.

    A Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent observed men on a boat smoking marihuana. Later, the agent arrived with a search warrant and searched the boat. The agent found three-quarter pounds of marihuana. The Claimant, Ralph Washington, alleges that the State cannot forfeit a vessel that is not used for trafficking drugs.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    When the statute, 21 U.S.C. § 881, clearly does not forbid forfeiture for vessels not participating in commercial drug trafficking, the statute allows the Government to forfeit vessels that are not involved in commercial drug trafficking as well.

    Facts.

    Ralph Washington purchased the NISKU, a boat. Washington left Jose Giner to attend to the fitting out of the boat for a two-year cruise around the world. Subsequently, the DEA came out to NISKU. The DEA agent testified that Washington and the others on the boat were smoking marihuana cigarette. At 5:00a.m., the next morning, the DEA agent arrived on NISKU and executed a search warrant. The agent found approximately three-quarter of a pound of marihuana in the area where Giner slept. The crew was arrested and the NISKU was seized.

    Issue.

    Whether the Government may forfeiture a vessel under 21 U.S.C. § 881 when the vessel is not used for trafficking purposes.

    Held.

    Yes, the Government may seize and forfeit the vessel under 21 U.S.C. § 881, regardless if the vessel is used for trafficking purposes or not.

    Discussion.

    The language of the statute states “a vessel is to be forfeited if used to ‘transport’ controlled substances.†Therefore, the statute does not limit the purpose of the forfeiture solely to vessels that are used for commercial drug trafficking. Therefore, the judgment is proper.



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