Drug Abatement at Oscar's II Restaurant Overturned

News Release: 
Friday, November 20, 2009

One of the most insidious features of the War on Drugs has been government seizures and closures of the property of people who are not involved in illegal activities. The Washington Court of Appeals dealt these practices a setback when it ruled in April, 2000 that the state’s drug nuisance abatement law was unconstitutional as applied to Oscar's II, a Seattle nightclub.

Owners Oscar and Barbara McCoy had cooperated with police in trying to end unlawful narcotics activity at the popular Central Area nightspot. The City then sent in undercover agents to buy drugs on the premises, but no arrests were made. Instead, evidence from the drug buys was cited by the City Attorney’s Office when it obtained a court order telling the McCoys to vacate their property – thus punishing them for the actions of others. The Court agreed with the arguments of an ACLU amicus brief that the City’s application of the statute to Oscar’s II violated due process and was an unconstitutional taking of property. The court noted acerbically that with the government unable to stop all drug dealing in its jails, it certainly cannot expect business owners to guarantee the lawful behavior of customers. Cooperating attorney David Zuckerman wrote the ACLU brief.

Explore More: