Philadelphia, PA – The town that has gained a status for the egregious civil asset forfeiture practices dedicated by its police division, will now be pressured to dismantle this system altogether, on account of a lawsuit filed by a household who had their residence seized by police after their son was accused of a minor drug crime.
Residents who’ve been harmed by the Philadelphia Police division’s civil asset forfeiture practices may additionally obtain a part of $three million in compensation. Markela and Chris Sourovelis initially filed a lawsuit in 2014 after their son was caught making an attempt to promote $40 in heroin on the road.
The mother and father complied with the choose and took their son to a court-ordered rehabilitation remedy. However once they returned residence, they discovered that police had locked them out of their home.
The Sourovelis household’s residence was seized by police although there was no proof that the mother and father had any data of their son’s try to promote medicine, and there was no proof that the mother and father or every other members of the family had engaged in any type of drug-related exercise deemed “unlawful” by the state.
The story obtained vital media consideration because the nation was launched to the horror many Philadelphia residents face, and the district legal professional ultimately dropped the case towards the household. In a press release from December 2014, Chris Sourovelis mentioned he was relieved by the decision, however was dedicated to persevering with the combat to make sure that different residents weren’t subjected to the identical nightmare.
“After months of uncertainty, my household can lastly relaxation straightforward realizing that our house is our residence once more,” Sourovelis mentioned. “I’ve lived in Philadelphia for over 30 years. I by no means thought it was potential for the police to simply present up at my doorstep with out discover and take my home after I’ve finished nothing improper. However that’s precisely what occurred to me and my household—and we’re not alone. That’s why we’re going to maintain preventing for everybody nonetheless trapped in Philadelphia’s civil forfeiture nightmare.”
Sourovelis labored with the Institute of Justice to file a brand new lawsuit a category motion lawsuit, which alleged that the town was seizing 300 to 500 houses every year, violating residents’ constitutional rights and illegally making a revenue incentive as a result of the income generated by this system was going straight to native police and district attorneys.
To say that the town has an issue is an understatement. Whereas the town of Allegheny, Pennsylvania, filed 200 petitions for civil asset forfeiture from 2008 to 2011, Philadelphia filed 6,560 petitions—in 2011 alone. A report from the Philadelphia Inquirer additionally discovered that the town introduced in greater than $64 million in seized property from 2004 to 2014, which is sort of twice the quantity raised by cities like Brooklyn, New York, and Los Angeles, California.
A 2015 report from the American Civil Liberties Union noted that “an estimated 32 p.c of money forfeitures will not be supported by a conviction,” which signifies that greater than $1 million is forfeited yearly from harmless residents in Philadelphia:
“Worrying proof means that the earnings and sweeping powers provided by civil forfeiture have distorted a device initially focused at cartels and drug kingpins. An article within the Philadelphia Metropolis Paper in 2012 indicated that Philadelphia prosecutors often forfeit sums as small as $100 and that folks making an attempt to get their property again generally needed to attend upwards of ten court docket dates simply to succeed in a listening to earlier than a choose. Different media accounts chronicled the human toll of civil forfeiture. In a single, a Philadelphia grandmother confronted shedding her residence as a result of a grandson bought a small quantity of medicine out of it. In one other, a Lancaster mom had $300 seized from her purse when her son was arrested on narcotics costs.”
The town of Philadelphia has now agreed to a settlement, which incorporates the next guarantees, in accordance with a report from Cause:
- The town will not search property forfeitures for easy drug possession
- The town will cease seizing petty quantities of money with out accompanying arrests or proof in a felony case
- The town will put judges answerable for forfeiture hearings and can streamline the listening to course of
- The town will ban the Philadelphia district legal professional and Philadelphia Police Division from utilizing forfeiture income to fund their payroll.
- The town will disburse the $three million settlement fund to qualifying members of the category motion primarily based on the circumstances of their case.
Whereas the outcomes of the lawsuit are encouraging, it stays to be seen how the Philadelphia Police division will reply, and if it can lash out at residents for the massive lower in income that was being stolen from harmless residents.
“I’m glad that there’s lastly a measure of justice for folks like me who did nothing improper however nonetheless discovered themselves preventing to maintain what was rightly theirs. Nobody in Philadelphia ought to ever should undergo the nightmare my household confronted,” Chris Sourovelis mentioned in response to the result of the lawsuit.
The Institute for Justice additionally launched a press release, calling the settlement a “groundbreaking” accomplishment that may have a optimistic impact for residents for years to return:
“For too lengthy, Philadelphia handled its residents like ATMs, ensnaring 1000’s of individuals in a system designed to strip folks of their property and their rights. No extra. At the moment’s groundbreaking settlement will finish years of abuse and create a fund to compensate harmless homeowners.”
Source : TFTP