Each year, Philadelphia police take millions of dollars in cash from city residents under the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws. About one-third of these residents, 1,500 of them, never are convicted of a crime, says the Washington Post. About 2.2 million of their money each year goes directly to the district attorney’s office, which oversees the forfeiture process. So says a new report from the the American Civil Liberties Union.
The group analyzed a random sample of 351 cash forfeitures out of thousands Philadelphia performed in 2012 and 2013. They found that the typical cash forfeiture wasn’t in the millions of dollars, or even in the thousands. The median amount seized was $192. Nearly 60 percent of cash seizures in Philadelphia are for less than $250. The implication is that Philadelphia’s cash forfeiture system is focused primarily on taking petty cash. By contrast, the Philadelphia City Paper said the average forfeiture amount in Los Angeles was $25,000. Federal guidelines say cash seizures initiated by the federal government must be for amounts greater than $5,000, unless the seizure is accompanied by a criminal charge, in which case the minimum is $1,000.