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  1. 5-HT2A
    (CNN) -- The rare moments Christos Sourovelis can take a break from running his own painting business, he can be found toiling away on his family's dream house in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

    "I'm a working guy. I work every day, six days a week, even seven if I have to," Sourovelis says. One day this past March, without warning, the government took his house away, even though he and his wife, Markella, have never been charged with a crime or accused of any wrongdoing.

    "I was so upset thinking somebody's going to take my house for nothing. That makes me crazy," Sourovelis says, shaking his head.

    The nightmare began when police showed up at the house and arrested their 22-year-old son, Yianni, on drug charges -- $40 worth of heroin. Authorities say he was selling drugs out of the home. The Sourvelises say they had no knowledge of any involvement their son might have had with drugs.

    A month-and-a-half later police came back -- this time to seize their house, forcing the Sourvelises and their children out on the street that day. Authorities came with the electric company in tow to turn off the power and even began locking the doors with screws, the Sourvelises say. Authorities won't comment on the exact circumstances because of pending litigation regarding the case.

    Police and prosecutors came armed with a lawsuit against the house itself. It was being forfeited and transferred to the custody of the Philadelphia District Attorney. Authorities said the house was tied to illegal drugs and therefore subject to civil forfeiture.

    In two years, nearly 500 families in Philadelphia had their homes or cars taken away by city officials, according to records from Pennsylvania's attorney general.

    Authorities use a civil forfeiture law that allows them to seize people's property when that property is connected to the sale of illegal drugs.

    CNN legal analyst and consumer attorney, Brian Kabateck, says the law is intended to protect the public. "It discourages crime and it takes the ill-gotten gains away from the bad people."

    But not all people who have their property taken away are charged with a crime. Unlike criminal forfeiture, the civil law allows authorities to seize property without the owner ever being convicted or even charged.

    In North Carolina property can be forfeited only if the property owner is actually convicted of a crime. This is not so in other states.

    Civil liberties attorneys with the Institute for Justice, who recently filed a class action lawsuit against Philadelphia authorities for abusing the law, say, "Civil forfeiture is something that is an assault upon fundamental notions of private property ownership and due process."

    But Kabateck disagrees, "It's a good law. It works. That doesn't mean that it doesn't sometimes have issues that need to be corrected. The system constantly has to change."

    In Pennsylvania, the City of Brotherly Love is far and away the most aggressive in the state when it comes to people's property. Over a four-year period, Allegheny County, the second largest county in Pennsylvania, filed about 200 petitions for civil forfeiture. Philadelphia filed nearly 7,000 petitions in one year alone, according to the class action lawsuit, in which the Sourvelises are plaintiffs, along with other Philadelphia citizens.

    Philadelphia officials seized more than 1,000 houses, about 3,300 vehicles and $44 million in cash, totaling $64 million in civil forfeitures over a 10-year period, according to the lawsuit.

    The very authorities taking the property appear to be profiting from it, according to Pennsylvania state records. The Pennsylvania Attorney General's office says about $7 million went straight to the salaries for the Philadelphia District Attorney's office and the police department in just three years. In that same time period, records show the D.A.'s office spent no money on community-based drug and crime-fighting programs, according to the Philadelphia AG's office.

    The Philadelphia District Attorney's office told CNN it seizes property only as a last resort, and added that it is limited in what it can currently say because of the pending litigation.

    "In most cases the Public Nuisance Task Force doesn't pursue forfeiture because the underlying issue with the real estate is resolved when a settlement agreement is reached with the property owner in which he or she agrees to take reasonable efforts to prevent future narcotics dealing from the property."

    The DA's office also says it works directly with citizens, the police, government agencies, and community groups in an effort to abate or close drug properties.

    Civil forfeiture can be used on the federal or state level. Only eight states -- Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Indiana, Vermont, North Carolina, Ohio and North Dakota -- require seized funds be placed in a neutral account. Other states allow law enforcement to directly profit from the civil forfeitures or put proceeds into a special crime fighting fund.

    In some states, like Pennsylvania, the burden is on the property owner to prove their innocence. The Sourvelises say they had to go to a courtroom and fight to get their home back where, instead of facing a judge, they faced a prosecutor from the DA's office.

    There was no courtroom or judge, Christos Sourvelis says. "There's just one guy telling us to sign these papers. That's it."

    After eight days of sleeping on a family member's couch, the Sourvelises were let back into their house, but only on the guarantee they would ban their son from the house -- a heartbreaking decision, they say. (Their son pleaded no contest to the drug charges.)

    Still fighting the city to resolve their case and stay in their home permanently, Markella Sourovelis says: "To me I'm home, but I feel violated at this point. I'm doing things in my house, but I worry is it always going to be my house? Are they going to take it one day like that?"

    The Philadelphia District Attorney's office told CNN it strictly follows the state law in an effort to crack down on drug abuse.

    "In these efforts we will follow applicable law to protect the rights of those involved -- not only drug dealers and those associated with them -- but the law-abiding citizens who are negatively affected by them."

    by Pamela Brown

    September 4, 2014



  1. tidruid
    That is some bullshit. I think there is a bill being proposed right now that would help stop this type of thing but I am not sure.
  2. Joe-(5-HTP)
    Oh yeah, they clearly helped crack down on drug abuse with this move.

    This is an insult to the conscience of any fair minded person.

    We don't just need a bill to stop this, we need a bill to remove all criminalization of drugs.

    Innocent people are constantly caught in the crossfire of this war on drugs which has no purpose or possibility of achievement anyway.

    It's just a disgrace and embarrassment.
  3. TheBigBadWolf
    I see this as only another example how totalitarian systems like US keep people suppressed aiming to steer their behaviour.
    Adds to telling people what substances they are allowed to ingest.

    this is ridiculous.

    As the word of the failed War On Drugs spreads the next make-believe is on the way.

    It's the War On Terrorism.
    Some minutes ago this here came in at my FB account:
    [​IMG] Be afraid. Be very afraid!!
  4. D0pe
    Well i have experienced this but was on the drug side... Friend of a Friend was driving a innocent persons vehicle and was pulled over. All he really had was a few hydrocodone and cannabis residue on a paper clip. The seized everything in the vehicle including the vehicle itself

    The innocent person could not get his car back.. Not even a chance, He was 80+ years old...

    They also searched the 80 year old guys house and found drugs in his sons room.. Rest of the house was clean... But they ended up going into the 80 year old guys house and taking all of his antique firearms some going back to the 30's.. He did not get those back either..

    I think its should be a absolute crime to make innocent people suffer for the choices of others.
  5. Diverboone
    Seizing personal property is common in my area. The LE are not concern whether the rightful owner is guilty of anything or not. The property is worth the same at auction time and that's all that matters to LE, because property generates revenue.

    I have had property seized on multiple times. Only one time out of 3 or 4 times was I charged with any crime. All those charges were dropped for failure to prosecute. That means that I have never been found guilty of any crime when property was seized. Which leads me to believe that seizing the property was their intended goal from the conception.
  6. D0pe
    That is exactly what they do around here.. Its lucky though that in my area things are turning in the right direction.. No longer are people being prosecuted and sent through the meat grinder that is our legal system.

    I once read that we have one of the highest incarceration rates in the USA and i was told that the United States has the highest prison population compared with other countries.. Meaning that i live in a area that has the highest incarceration rate in the nation..

    Seizure wise we do not hit the stats as hard as some states.. But when drugs, money , crime and property is involved it means Money.. And to keep the system moving they need to get more desperate and try to figure out ways to arrest people on semi bogus charges and at the same time make money..

    The government is against this of course as they say "" Just cannot afford such a small state to have such a large prison population" ( Not the exact words but a summary )..

    If i would of got in trouble 10 years later i would of been slapped on the hand and handed a ticket.. Instead i am paying for the consequences of a barbaric legal system that could be decades behind.

    Seizure of property happens on so many scales in this area... Just recently my family had to fork over land because it was public domain. When we refused they came in and said they would seize it, Or you can sign on the dotted line and take the small amount for the property, So its not just drugs..

    I think eventually people will get sick of getting trampled on and stand up for what they believe. Every time the step on someones freedoms it just pushes society further into a state of chaos, Or even Anarchy.
  7. Diverboone
    [FONT=&quot]Asset Forfeiture Report: Tennessee D [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]Tennessee has broad civil forfeiture laws that fail to protect the rights of property owners. There, the government must establish by only a preponderance of the evidence that property is related to a crime and subject to forfeiture. Tennessee also effectively presumes owners are guilty, as the property owner bears the burden of proof for innocent owner claims. And, while it cannot be used to supplement salaries, local drug enforcement nonetheless keeps 100 percent of property forfeited, and there is no requirement to collect or report data on the use of forfeiture or its proceeds in Tennessee.

    This is from the Institute for Justice. It should be noted that there is a play on word. True an officers income can not be supplemented by fund derived from these forfeitures. But his yearly salary can come from these funds. By State Law the Drug Task Force Units are solely funded by seizure derived funds.
  8. tatittle
    This is why I want the smallest govt possible. Half of the stuff gov't does these days would be inconceivable, or strongly rejected by the founders (and founding principles) of this country. The corruption is inherent and unavoidable given human nature.
  9. D0pe
    That is really crazy and i am really not that surprised.. I bet some of the higher up officials are driving some pretty nice cars.. All decked out with Fuzzy dice, Hydraulics, and $40,000 Rims that spin.. I bet they sure do not have a shortage of vehicles to use for personal use, sell, or use for the job...

    Its also kind of scary that a state would do this.. I really do not like the idea of any governing entity to have restraining control over a persons life, Like i said in a previous post... Eventually people will snap and it will be all at once..
  10. ianzombie
    We have young people starting threads all the time asking how to smoke in-doors without getting caught, or wanting to know what they can grow in their bedrooms that would go unnoticed.
    While they might not always appreciate the response that while they are living under their parents roof they should respect their rules, this sort of news article just shows the dangers that you can put others in.
  11. Nosferatus
    I would think that there would be some proof required that the house was bought with the proceeds of crime, but I guess, given that the justice sytem ultimately profits, why would they make things difficult for themselves, this is why organizations that enforce laws shouldn't directly benefit from their enforcement, it throws open the door to corruption and willfull misinterpretation. The saddest part is that the prevailing attitude that anything is too good for people who use or are otherwise involved with drugs creates the necessary conditions for this to happen.
  12. Diverboone
    In my State (Tennessee) all that an officer needs to seize is "reasonable suspicion" for property or cash to be seized. A notice will be sent to the assumed owner of property subject to the forfeiture, that they have X number of days to pay a nonrefundable cash bond to have the case heard. The proof needed at this hearing for the forfeiture to stand is "preponderance of proof", which is a much less than "beyond reasonable doubt" required in criminal cases. The property is subject to forfeiture if it has in any way been used to facilitate a drug crime (store, manufacture, convey, transport, ect) or bought with any proceeds derived for the sale of drugs.
  13. The_Joker
    Absolutely ridiculous and sickening. Anyone with half a brain can see this is an abuse of authority, simply used to gain revenue.
    Common sense just says this is wrong.
    They will lose, too. You know they will. They won't be able to hire a lawyer, as all their assets will be seized. Over forty bucks worth of dope because their kid was being a little dumb shit.
    They will stick it to them, and they will get it done, too.
    I just don't understand how this helps anyone.
  14. Diverboone
    In my area what happened to this family, happens often. It is not only houses, it's anything that can be auctioned for money.

    This is from the Judicial District I live in.

    David Hicks, the director of the 23rd Judicial District Drug Task Force, which operates along I-40 in Dickson County, told committee members that his task force’s budget, including the money for agents salaries and bonuses, relies solely on funds received from asset seizures—whether it be cash or through auctioning off seized property. While task force officials generally argue that nobody’s money gets taken unless there’s reason to believe it’s in some way connected to criminal activity, they acknowledge drug cops will sometimes seize cash from a vehicle if the sum is suspiciously large and none of the occupants offers a plausible and legitimate reason for possessing it. http://tnreport.com/2013/12/01/tn-drug-task-forces-short-oversight-lawmakers-consider-reform/

    Review pages 133 and 134
    View attachment 40318

    A state audit released last week shows the 23rd Judicial District Drug Task Force to be the wealthiest in the state, with at least $1 million more in the bank than any other drug task force. The audit for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013, by the Tennessee Comptroller also cited the task force for not following proper procedures in documenting payments to confidential informants.http://wdkn.com/audit-shows-23rd-ta...-lack-of-oversight-in-payments-to-informants/

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