Rochelle Bing, 42, is a full-time health assistant for the elderly and disabled and a young grandmother of 18 grandchildren. According to Raw Story, four years ago, law enforcement tried to forcibly remove Bing and her descendents from their modest Philadelphia row house of 10 years because of a crime Bing had not committed.
Rochelle Bing’s son, Andrew, was charged with selling cocaine to an undercover informant. The police raided Bing's home and, though they found no cocaine, they filed a court claim to grant a “decree of forfeiture.” The claim, quickly signed by a judge, gave the Bing family 30 days to dissuade a judge before the district attorney took possession of the house and forced them to move.
Rochelle Bing committed no crime, nor was she an accomplice to any crime, yet she was being forcibly evicted from her home. Most courts at least pay lip service to dispelling guilt by association.
In other cases, those accused of certain crimes are evicted or have their assets frozen even before their charges are adjudicated. Unlike jury verdict with must be reached beyond a reasonable doubt, civil forfeitures may be signed by a sole judge’s discretion.
As noted by Propublica, the rationale behind the practice of seizing the property or assets of an accused person is to cut off their means by which they commit the crime. Law enforcement might have filed to seize the Bing home to prevent Andrew Bing from possibly selling drugs. However, Andrew had not been indicted and the eviction affected dozens of other inhabitants of the property.
According the suit Rochelle Bing has since filed, this practice of forcible forfeiture is only growing exponentially. In 2000, officials across the country collected $500 million in forfeitures. Just last year, that amount rose to $4.2 billion.
Bing found a lawyer to work for free and within the short time span mandated by the court. It still took her two years and 23 court appearances. Her son, who was convicted, had already finished his sentence by the time she had secured back the ownership of her house.