Society

Philadelphia DA Office Tries To Seize House From Innocent Parents

| by Amanda Schallert

The home of a Philadelphia family is in jeopardy after their son was arrested for having $40 worth of heroin and selling drugs from the house.

Earlier this year, authorities came to the home of Christos and Markela Sourovelis and arrested their 22-year-old son Yianni. Then in March, police returned and kicked the Sourovelis family out of the house though Christos and Markela Sourovelis say they had no knowledge of their son’s drug business, according to CNN News.

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

The practice of seizing family-owned property by Philadelphia officials is part of a law that allows civil forfeiture in an effort to curb crime in the city. Because the house was tied to the sale of illegal drugs, it is subject to the particular law, which has led to the eviction of almost 500 Philadelphia families in the last two years.

"It discourages crime and it takes the ill-gotten gains away from the bad people," said Brian Kabateck, a CNN legal analyst in regards to the law. "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."

The Sourovelis family said that city officials came to their home with electric workers and put them on the street the same day. The parents have said they think the law unfairly affected them even though they were unaware of their son’s drugs.

Other home owners and attorneys have similarly criticized the law. The Institute for Justice has also filed a class action lawsuit against city officials for allegedly taking advantage of civil forfeiture, violating individuals’ right to property.

Attorneys have also criticized the law and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office for seemingly profiting off the very property seizures it approves.

According to the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office, close to $7 million helped fund D.A. office-member salaries over a period of three years.

In response, the D.A. has said that civil forfeiture is considered a last resort.

For the Sourovelis, the forfeiture forced them to ban their son from ever coming home and has left them in an emotional limbo, unsure if they will have to pack up and move in the future.

"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?” said Markela Sourovelis. “Are they going to take it one day like that?"

Source: CNN, Image Credit: forbes.com