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Parents' home seized for son's $40 in drugs

Laws exist for many reasons, but at least some are designed to protect decent people like me and you from those who would rob us of our most valued possessions.

But some laws seem to turn law enforcers into the robbery crew.

CNN tells us the city of Philadelphia has seized 500 homes in 2014, some for what seem to be minor drug possessions.

In one case, house painter Christos Sourovelis was evicted from his home because police found $40 of heroin on his 22-year-old son.

Within six weeks of their son's arrest, Sourovelis, his wife and other children were forced onto the streets without warning.

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CNN wrote "Authorities came with the electric company in tow to turn off the power and even began locking the doors with screws ... Authorities won't comment on the exact circumstances because of pending litigation regarding the case."

At the time they were being evicted, no one in the home had been convicted of a crime.

After eight days the Sourovelis family, minus their son, who pleaded no-contest to drug charges, were allowed to return to the home.

Many states, including Georgia, allow what is called a civil forfeiture. Unlike criminal cases, all prosecutors have to do to take possession of property is allege the property was used to commit a crime.

The City of Brotherly Love, over a 10-year period, has 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 a lawsuit filed by a civil liberties group.

Where does the money go? According to Pennsylvania state records, about $7 million went to salaries for the Philadelphia District Attorney's office and the police department.

Only eight states require property from seized funds go to a neutral account. Law enforcement in other states --- including Georgia -- can use the money directly.

In Cobb County, in 2003, the sheriff's office took in $9.5 million is seized assets , or about 76 percent of its $12.4 million budget at the time.

Some will argue that it's fine to fund police through forfeited assets, and, if there's a criminal conviction, I agree with them. But others might say the system rewards abuse of power.

It's a good thing we don't have to worry about any of that abuse of power stuff happening around here .

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