Monday on CNN’s “The Lead With Jake Tapper,” CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown reported on Philadelphia police and prosecutors seizing the homes of people with no criminal charges. The report highlighted a family who’s 22-year-old son was arrested for a $40 drug charge but the parents, who were unaware of their adult sons criminal activity, were never charged with any crime are currently fighting city prosecutors to stay in the family home.
The homeowners told the story of police bursting into their home in suburban Philadelphia with a sledgehammer reportedly saying, “We’re going to break your walls and pipes. This house is going to be ours.” As he was explaining what was going on, there was people closing doors with screws, locking them.
“They had the electric company here to turn off my electric and gas.” CNN reported, “The general core of the civil forfeiture law is capture the cash or ill-gotten gains or contraband that criminals have used to commit a particular crime. But unlike criminal forfeiture, the civil law allows authorities to seize property without the owner being convicted or even charged.” “Philadelphia filed nearly 7,000 petitions in one year alone according to a class action lawsuit just recently filed by citizens there.”
The federal government is in on the game, too. When items are seized under the federal authority, the federales get to keep 20 percent with the local cops getting the rest. In many states, the local share flows directly into the agency’s budget, creating a powerful and perverse profit motive. Each seizure holds the promise of upgraded squad cars and other benefits for the officers. The reassuring slogan of “serve and protect” has been replaced by “stop and collect.”