Four years after Philadelphia police seized the home of Markela and Chris Sourovelis for a minor drug crime committed by their son, the city has agreed to almost completely dismantle its controversial civil asset forfeiture program and pay $3 million to its victims.
The Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm, announced today that the city had agreed to a settlement in a federal civil rights class-action lawsuit challenging its forfeiture program.
"For too long, Philadelphia treated its citizens like ATMs, ensnaring thousands of people in a system designed to strip people of their property and their rights," Darpana Sheth, a senior attorney at the institute, said in a press release. "No more. Today's groundbreaking agreement will end years of abuse and create a fund to compensate innocent owners."
The Institute for Justice filed the suit in 2014 on behalf of the Sourovelises, a couple whose house was seized without warning after their son was caught selling $40 worth of drugs outside. The same day the Sourovelises dropped their son off for court-ordered rehab treatment, they returned to find police had locked them out of their own home, even though there was no evidence they were aware of the drug activity.