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Articles Tagged with Pennsylvania

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drugs-908533_1920-300x200It was May 2015, and still early in the morning in rural Berks County, Pennsylvania. Dana Smith, age 48, looked outside and was surprised to see a line of police cars waiting outside. “It was like a line of state troopers’ car and sheriffs’ cars,” she said. “They said they have a warrant, and I said, ‘A warrant for what?” and they said, ‘To search the house.’”

It turns out that Smith’s boyfriend, Edward Chesney, was under suspicion of trafficking drugs. Law enforcement believed he had based his operation in Smith’s own home, and now they were looking for evidence.
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drugs-2793133_1920-300x200In 2016, Ambioris Cruz was in a Nissan Murano SUV together with Jose Veloz in Reading, Pennsylvania. With them in the car were $5,000 in cash and several bags of drugs. They were waiting for one of their associates to show. They were waiting to make a drug deal.

What Cruz and Veloz didn’t know was that the police had turned their associate against them. Law enforcement officers were observing from a distance. When the time was right, the police rushed in. They arrested the pair and seized the SUV, cash, and drugs.
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philadelphia-1740685_1920-300x241On March 23, 2016, police arrested Christopher “Bmore” Hawkins, age 46, of Spring Garden Township, Pennsylvania on drug charges. Hawkins was caught attempting to sell heroin to two informants. As part of his plea bargain, Hawkins pleaded guilty to several charges, including “possession with intent to deliver heroin” in order to receive a prison sentence between four and eight years.

During a search of his house, law enforcement officials seized several items. These included televisions, a 1996 Dodge Neon, and a 2004 Mercedes-Benz CLK. Police were able to take possession of Hawkins’ property using a procedure known as civil asset forfeiture, which gives police the power to seize a person’s property or assets if said property and assets are suspected of being involved in a crime.
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philadelphia-224464_1920-300x200If anyone knows how unjust civil asset forfeiture can be, it’s Philadelphia resident Norys Hernandez. Law enforcement attempted to seize the house she owned with her sister even though she had done nothing wrong. The authorities attempted to take her home after her nephew was arrested for dealing drugs on the property.

It took years, but Norys eventually got her house back. She was part of a class-action lawsuit that was settled for $3 million last year.

Civil asset forfeiture is the legal process where police may take someone’s property if it is suspected of being involved in a crime. A criminal conviction is not required in most states. In fact, of the four plaintiffs named in the class-action lawsuit who had their houses seized, none were accused of having committed a crime. In three cases, the houses were seized because a relative had been caught selling drugs in the house.
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agreement-business-businessmen-886465-300x200In 2014, Philadelphia police seized the home of Chris and Markela Sourovelis after their son was arrested for selling drugs worth $40 outside on their property. The police used a process known as civil asset forfeiture to take the property. This is a legal procedure where law enforcement can take someone’s property or cash if it is suspected of being involved in a crime. They can do so without a criminal conviction or even filing criminal charges.

According to the Institute for Justice (IJ), the use of civil asset forfeiture in Philadelphia has gone “unchecked” for years. Until recently, all funds from civil asset forfeiture seizures went directly Philadelphia’s law enforcement.
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