Freedom Flix

The Forfeiture Machine Turns Cops into Robbers

 

 

The most terrifying place in Philadelphia is Courtroom 478 in City Hall. This is where property owners enter Philadelphia’s Civil Forfeiture Machine. Civil forfeiture is a little-known legal device that allows law enforcement officials to take your property, sell it and pocket the proceeds—even if you have done nothing wrong.

Philadelphia’s automated, machine-like forfeiture scheme is unprecedented in size. From 2002 to 2012, Philadelphia took in over $64 million in forfeiture funds—or almost $6 million per year. In 2011 alone, the city’s prosecutors filed 6,560 forfeiture petitions to take cash, cars, homes and other property. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s office used over $25 million of that $64 million to pay salaries, including the salaries of the very prosecutors who brought the forfeiture actions. This is almost twice as much as what all other Pennsylvania counties spent on salaries combined.

This is how the city’s forfeiture machine works: Property owners who have their cash, cars or homes seized must go to Courtroom 478. But Courtroom 478 isn’t a courtroom at all: there is no judge or jury, just a scheduler and the prosecutors who run the show. Owners who ask for a lawyer are frequently told their case isn’t complicated and a lawyer isn’t necessary, but are then given a stack of complicated legal documents to fill out under oath. Time and time again, property owners must return to Courtroom 478—up to ten or more times in some cases. If they miss a single appearance, they can lose their property forever.

Philadelphia’s forfeiture machine stacks the deck against property owners and leads city officials to police for profit instead of justice. To end these unconscionable and unconstitutional practices, the Institute for Justice and a group of property owners have brought a major, class-action lawsuit in federal court. The lawsuit will take the profit incentive out of civil forfeiture and protect innocent people who are caught in an upside-down legal process that treats them like cash machines while violating their constitutional rights.

Read more

 

Embed on your site:




Freedom Flix

The Institute for Justice is always looking for new ways to promote the message of freedom. To that end, IJ produced the following videos in-house to tell the stories of our clients and their fight for individual liberty.

None of this — the cases or these videos — would be possible without the continued generosity of our donors. We hope you enjoy them and share them with those who need a little inspiration.

Subscribe to our videos via iTunes or YouTube.


   The Forfeiture Machine Turns Cops into Robbers (3:50)
The most terrifying place in Philadelphia is Courtroom 478 in City Hall. This is where property owners enter Philadelphia’s Civil Forfeiture Machine.
   Gov't grabs elderly man's home; won't give reason (4:10)
New Jersey’s CRDA is trying to use eminent domain to seize Charlie Birnbaum's property as part of a “mixed-use development” project. The trouble is that CRDA has no concrete plans to do anything in particular with it.
   The Top 6 Craziest Things Cops Spent Forfeiture Money On (1:07)
Under civil asset forfeiture, police can seize property suspected of involvement in criminal activity.
   Behind the Scenes of the Caswell Forfeiture Victory (5:58)
Last January, a federal court in Massachusetts dismissed a civil forfeiture action against the Motel Caswell, a family-run motel in Tewksbury, handing a complete victory to owners Russell and Patricia Caswell.
   Out of control Feds raid family grocery store’s checking account over innocent bank deposits (1:45)
Government bullies are taking the little guy's milk money.
   Ending Forfeiture Abuse: How States Can Be Tough on Crime and Respect Property Rights (7:32)
Civil asset forfeiture is one of the greatest threats to private property rights in our nation today.  Law enforcement can take your property without even charging you with a crime. According to reports from the Institute for Justice, law enforcement..
   POLICING FOR PROFIT: Feds try to take innocent elderly couples' Mom-and-Pop motel (2:47)
Seeking to circumvent state law and cash in on the profits, the Tewksbury Police Department is working with the U.S. Department of Justice to take and sell the Caswells property because a tiny fraction of people who have stayed at the Motel Caswell...
   If a Police Dog "Alerts," Should You Lose Your Cash, Car and Other Property? (2:42)
IJ attorneys Darpana Sheth and Scott Bullock explain IJ's new amicus brief about civil forfeiture. Learn more at this link: http://www.ij.org/l-l-10-12-ij-amicus-brief-alerts-high-court-to-abuse-of-civil-forfeiture-using-drug-dogs
   EPIC EMINENT DOMAIN BATTLE: Inner-City Kids, Boxing Gym Fight Back (4:51)
A San Diego-area boxing gym that serves at-risk kids is showing what it takes to fight for what is right and to win. The Community Youth Athletic Center (CYAC) is fighting to keeps it's gym from land-hungry developers bent on eminent domain for private ga
   Scorched Earth: Eminent Domain Abuse in the Gardens of Mount Holly (6:57)
The township of Mount Holly, N.J., has been systematically destroying the Gardens—a close-knit community of over 300 garden-style row homes—for the past decade. Officials want to hand the property over to Keating Urban Partners, for luxury townhomes and a
   Kelo: Five Years Later (3:51)
   Policing for Profit - The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture (2:30)
If police suspect that you committed a crime, they can arrest you and put you on trial. But if police suspect your car was involved in a crime, they can take it, sell it and, in most places, pocket the proceeds to pad their budgets.
   San Tan Flat & The Fight Against Arbitrary Government Power (3:07)
   Lori Ann Vendetti & Property Rights (4:29)
   The Story of Susette Kelo (11:00)
   The Story of Randy Bailey (9:10)

Email Address
Please enter a valid email address
Share

Institute for Justice
901 N. Glebe Road, Suite 900
Arlington, VA 22203
Tel 703.682.9320, Fax 703.682.9321
© 1997-2014