WATCH: John Oliver Criticizes Philly Forfeiture Practices
The latest John Oliver rant features the topic of civil forfeiture, the police practice of seizing property — cash, houses, cars, and more — that might be related to the commission of a crime. Often, though, police walk off with cash even when there’s the barest evidence of a crime.
And yes, Philly gets a cameo, starting about the 11:30 mark:
The Philly case has become famous among activists working to undo — or at least greatly restrict — the practice of civil forfeiture, which was brought to wide attention in a 2012 City Paper story. Here’s CNN with the latest:
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.
CNN adds: “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.”
In fact, the Institute for Justice brought a lawsuit last month alleging Philly’s forfeiture practices are illegal. No word on when that case will proceed.