It Is Terrifying That Your Child’s Minor Drug Offense Could Cost You Your Home

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A family in Philadelphia found themselves temporarily without a home when their 22-year old son was busted with $40 worth of heroin, his first criminal offense. I am stunned that this is legal anywhere let alone America. This sounds like something that would happen in a lawless nation. I am afraid of living in a country where your child’s minor drug offense could cost you your home.

From Gawker:

Earlier this year, Yianni Sourovelis, 22, was arrested for possessing $40 worth of heroin, his first criminal offense. Several weeks later, police and representatives of the district attorney’s office showed up at Sourovelis’ parents’ house in the Philadelphia suburbs and told them they were being evicted.

According to Markella Sourovelis, Yianni’s mother, the officers who arrived began screwing doors shut, shutting off electricity, and telling the family their home would be gutted after it was seized by the state. The elder Sourovelises had committed no crimes, but were victims of Pennsylvania’s civil forfeiture law, which allowed the city district attorney to take custody of the home just because it believed it was being used to sell drugs, without a trial or other proof of wrongdoing. It is worth repeating, perhaps, that this was Yianni’s first offense.

This poor family. Can you imagine being told you were losing your home due to $40 worth of heroin? Apparently, this is a relatively common occurrence in Philadelphia where the law states that you do not need to be convicted or even charged with a crime for your property to be seized in what is called civil forfeiture. If your home is suspected to be a place tied to the sale of illegal drugs, it can be seized by the city. This is incredibly disturbing.

It is even more disturbing to hear that these forfeitures are making the city government a ton of money. From CNN:

Philadelphia officials seized more than 1,000 houses, about 3,300 vehicles and $44 million in cash, totaling $64 million in civil forfeitures over a 10-year period, according to the lawsuit.

The very authorities taking the property appear to be profiting from it, according to Pennsylvania state records. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office says about $7 million went straight to the salaries for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office and the police department in just three years. In that same time period, records show the D.A.’s office spent no money on community-based drug and crime-fighting programs, according to the Philadelphia AG’s office.

This is simply unreal. To know that someone in your house possessing $40 worth of heroin could mean the loss of everything you’ve worked for is so terrifying. This should not be how it goes in America. How is this being allowed?

After eight days, the Sourovelis family were allowed to re-enter their home on the condition that their son be banned from living there. He is 22 years old and I am not sure of his employment situation but how exactly is this going to make things any better? I would venture that being kicked out and possibly having few options for his livelihood could mean he turns to selling drugs or other illegal activities. Keep in mind that this was his first criminal offense- what a harsh overreaction and how terrible to separate this young man from his family for a $40 indiscretion. I think the city of Philadelphia needs to think past simply punishing a person and everyone who lives with them and try to consider ways to make the situation better. To facilitate young men like Yianni Sourovelis leading a crime-free life instead of causing them to possibly turn to the very thing that got them into trouble in the first place.

(Image:  Evdokimov Maxim/Shutterstock)