Civil forfeiture is simply theft by the government, pure and simple.
It’s wrong. It’s unconstitutional.
It needs to change.
One family, with the aid of a non-profit, is fighting back. Not only to save their own property, but against civil forfeiture itself.
It’s long overdue.
Philadelphia Earns Millions By Seizing Cash And Homes From People Never Charged With A Crime
(Forbes) – Chris Sourovelis has never had any trouble with the law or been accused of any crime. But that hasn’t stopped the City of Philadelphia from trying to take his home.
The Sourouvelis family, along with thousands of others in Philadelphia, is living a Kafkaesque nightmare: Their property is considered guilty; they must prove their innocence and the very prosecutors they’re fighting can profit from their misery. Now the Institute for Justice has filed a major class-action lawsuit to end these abuses of power.
…Under civil forfeiture, property owners do not have to be convicted of a crime, or even charged with one, to permanently lose their property. Instead, the government can forfeit a property if it’s found to “facilitate” a crime, no matter how tenuous the connection. So rather than sue the owner, in civil forfeiture proceedings, the government sues the property itself, leading to surreal case names like Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. The Real Property and Improvements Known as 2544 N. Colorado St.
In other words, thanks to civil forfeiture, the government punishes innocent people for the crimes other people might have committed. Sadly, the Sourovelis family is not alone. Doila Welch faces civil forfeiture of her home, which has been in her family for 17 years, because her estranged husband, unbeknownst to her, was dealing small amounts of marijuana. Norys Hernandez and her sister co-own a rowhouse, but her sister is still barred from living there because Hernandez’s nephew was arrested for selling drugs outside her rowhouse. Welch and Hernandez have not been charged with any crime and both have joined Sourovelis as named plaintiffs in IJ’s class action against the Philadelphia forfeiture machine.
Philadelphia law enforcement has transformed a once obscure legal process into a racket that treats Americans as little more than ATMs. Every year, the city collects almost $6 million in revenue from forfeiture. According to data collected by the Institute for Justice, between 2002 and 2012, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office seized and forfeited over 3,000 vehicles, nearly 1,200 homes and other real estate properties and $44 million in cash. Altogether, Philadelphia has generated a staggering $64 million in forfeiture proceeds, which equals one-fifth of the DA Office’s entire budget. Forty percent of those funds—$25 million—pay law enforcement salaries, including the salaries for the prosecutors who have used civil forfeiture against families like the Sourovelises.