The Institute For Justice (IJ), one of America’s primary organizations dedicated to property rights preservation, has just won a four-year class-action lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia’s forfeiture machine. The under the terms of the suit , the city must dismantle its cruel and unconstitutional practice of taking private property on mere suspicion of criminal activity, selling and using it, all without convicting, or sometimes even charging the owner with a crime. The state must also set up a $3 million fund to pay back victims of this racket. According to an article by the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE.org),
“Civil forfeiture—where the government can seize and sell your property without convicting or even charging you with a crime—is one of the greatest threats to property rights today. With civil forfeiture, the government sues the property itself under the fiction that cash, cars or even homes can be guilty, resulting in bizarre case names like Commonwealth v. 2000 Buick. And because these cases are civil, innocent property owners are denied rights guaranteed to criminal defendants, like the right to an attorney.
“For too long, Philadelphia treated its citizens like ATMs, ensnaring thousands of people in a system designed to strip people of their property and their rights,” said Darpana Sheth, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice and director of its Initiative to End Forfeiture Abuse. “No more. Today’s groundbreaking agreement will end years of abuse and create a fund to compensate innocent owners.”
The agreement will end years of abuse that has seen people’s lives destroyed for minor infractions. For example, “In 2014, Chris Sourovelis nearly lost his house after his son was arrested for selling $40 worth of drugs. Although Chris did nothing wrong, the police showed up unannounced one day and threw his entire family out of his home.”
The idea of civil asset forfeiture is to punish the cartels and mafia-like organizations by taking away the proceeds of their large-scale criminal enterprises. The reality is, however, that it may be more likely that grandma will have her car stolen by the cops after they catch her grandson, unbeknownst to her, smoking marijuana in the car. News stories around the nation testify that a good portion of LEOs are using this revenue generating scheme, and attempt to search every vehicle they stop. DON’T CONSENT!
Training needs to be revised to eliminate this practice of intimidating motorists into letting their cars, purses, etc., be searched without a warrant. If they have probable cause, or reasonable articulable suspicion (RIS), they don’t need to ask. CSPOA urges citizens to learn about the forfeiture laws and police practices in your local jurisdictions. Then make your voices heard if reform needs to happen. You may want to contact the Institute For Justice for advice and/or assistance after you have done your homework.