Philadelphia is using an obscure law to take property away from innocent citizens. Through civil forfeiture, Philadelphia has been able to sieze propoerty if that property is even tenuously connected to law-breaking.
In one case, the Sourovelise family had a teenage son who sold about $40 worth of drugs outside their house. He was caught and ordered to mandatory rehab. A little while later, the police showed up and evicted the Sourovelises from their house. The police claimed that, under civil forfeiture law, the house was now the property of the city. Now, the Sourovelises are fighting to get it back.
Civil forfeiture is legal in other cities, but it is not being implemented anywhere else like it is in Philadelphia:
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.
This is just one more tool of the tyranny-fueled police state we’re living in. And much of this has to do with the “war on drugs.” I wish people would figure out that the war on drugs is a convenient excuse for the civil government to do pretty much whatever they want to anyone.
We need to search your car. Why? You might have drugs. If you don’t have any, you have nothing to fear.
We need to take your house. Why? It’s connected to the sale of drugs. If you’re not guilty, you have nothing to worry about.
The list goes on and on. Eminent domain, civil forfeiture, speed traps, reverse stings, red light photo tickets, and all the rest just point to the undeniable reality that law enforcement agents are no longer civil servants. More and more, they serve only their own interests.