Articles Tagged with policing for profit

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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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On July 2, 2015, police officers pulled Stephen Nichols over in Lincoln Park near Detroit, Michigan. When they discovered Stephen didn’t have valid insurance for his 1998 Toyota Avalon, they seized it and impounded it in a lot in nearby Brownstown Township.

In cases where property is seized, the law is clear: cases must be brought to court promptly. However, it is over three years since his car was taken, and Stephen still hasn’t had his day in court.
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A possible financial scandal is emerging in Michigan, where state officials have been asked to investigate the use of civil asset forfeiture funds in Macomb County. On Monday, Macomb County Treasurer Lawrence Rocca wrote to state officials, saying the review was necessary because of discoveries made during a recent audit of the finances of Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office.

The audit, which was conducted by Plante Moran LLC, showed the county prosecutor was using four secret bank accounts with a combined total of $239,581 in assets as of Aug 21. These accounts were not listed on the county’s ledger. The funds in these accounts came from the proceeds of civil asset forfeiture.
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Back in April, I reported on the case of Arlene Harjo. When Arlene’s son drove her car while drunk, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) seized her car using a process known as civil asset forfeiture. They would not give it back even though she had committed no crime. Now, a federal judge presiding over her case has found that Albuquerque’s use of civil asset forfeiture is “unconstitutional.”

In 2015, a law was passed in New Mexico essentially banning civil asset forfeiture. This is the legal procedure where law enforcement can take an individual’s property when it is suspected of being involved in a crime. In most states, criminal charges do not need to be filed as this type of forfeiture is a civil, not a criminal, process.
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Josh Gingerich of Yuba City in northern California buys and flips trucks for a living. On a buying trip in February, the DEA stopped Josh at the airport and confiscated the $29,000 in cash he was carrying. Josh was not arrested, nor did he commit any crime. Despite this, the DEA is refusing to give his money back.

Law enforcement was able to take Josh’s money using a process called civil asset forfeiture. This is a legal procedure where property or cash can be seized if it has been suspected of involvement in a crime. As it is a civil and not a legal procedure, in most states property owners do not need to be charged with a crime before their property may be taken.
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