For today’s outrage we go to Philadelphia, PA, where the City of Brotherly Love is accused of operating a multimillion dollar property grabbing scheme that is neither brotherly nor loving. This is one of those maddening stories where you’re going to ask yourself “how is this a thing?”
I just want to seize a few Philly cheesesteaks.
Chris Sourovelis and his wife were never accused or convicted of a crime. However the city of Philadelphia is trying to seize their home, which they own. Their son got caught selling $40 bucks worth of drugs outside the house and was arrested, eventually being ordered to attend rehab. On the same day the kid was going to rehab police showed up at Sourovelis’ home to evict the family and seize the house. How is this a thing?! According to Forbes:
“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.”
The city accuses the property itself of helping perpetrate the crime? WTF? Maybe it’s one of those Pee Wee Herman houses with a face that can speak. Pee Wee would set that naughty house straight. “Hey Housie! Were you selling drugs!? Drugs are bad! Heh-heh!”
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Today’s Secret Word Is “Unconstitutional”
The police stopped the Sourovelis family from living in the house for over a week and were only allowed to return if they banned their son from even visiting the home. I’m sure that’s what’s best for the young man. Maybe he can sell drugs while crashing on his friend’s couch; the Philadelphia District Attorney needs a new couch for his office.
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“Couchy” has been bad.
Why would Philly do this? Well they have a large financial incentive to do so; over a ten year period from 2002 – 2012 the city collected 3,000 vehicles, 1,200 homes and $44 million in cash totally $64 million in forfeiture. To top it off, this money is used to pay for police salaries in addition to the salaries of the prosecutors who are in charge of seizing the homes in the first place. These guys get paid when people lose their homes. What could possibly go wrong; no conflict of interest here. What’s next, doctors who get paid by funeral homes for the number of patients they lose?
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Just Watch The Video!
For those of you who might be thinking, “Well the kid committed a crime so he should be punished.” – Yeah the kid should be punished, but the parents had nothing to do with it and it’s their house. That’s the kind of thing they do in places like North Korea or Iran; the whole family gets punished for one family member’s crime. And even if the person who was selling drugs owned a house that might be bit of a steep punishment, don’t you think? Some might think putting someone’s whole family on the street over a bag of drugs to be cruel and unusual punishment. There are murderers who get a fair shake compared to what’s happening to these people. To make matters worse, in order to fight civil forfeiture, the city requires property owners to come to a courtroom numerous times without ever seeing a judge or jury – and if they miss just one hearing, the government can seize their property right away.
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The Liberty Bell Has Been Tarnished And So Has My Lunch
As you can imagine, people are pissed about this. I am pretty amped up and have never even been to Philadelphia (to be fair, this sounds like it’s becoming an issue all over the country). Luckily The Institute for Justice is filing a class action lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia on behalf of the Sourovelis and other residents who fell victim to civil forfeiture.
You can read the entire lawsuit here; it’s pretty amazing that the city was able to get away with this for so long. I would love to hear the other side of the argument on this one. I can imagine this was done in an effort to eliminate crack houses in gang infested neighborhoods, but clearly it’s gone beyond that to where city officials are using civil forfeiture to fill their own pockets and budgets.
Take Away Phil Haney’s Dignity On Twitter @PhilHaney