Acquisition or Theft: Civil Asset Forfeiture in Pennsylvania
MetadataShow full item record
Type of Work61 pages
Departmental Honors Paper
DepartmentHood College Political Science
ProgramHood College Departmental Honors
On a drive through the streets of Philadelphia, PA, Nasir Geiger had just cashed his paycheck which netted him $580 cash in his pocket. Leaving the bank, Nasir was flagged down by police under suspicion of drug dealing. Then the police searched his vehicle but did not find any drugs or anything illegal. Despite this, the Philadelphia police seized his vehicle and his $580 cash under pretenses that Nasir was using his car to commit crimes. It did not matter Nasir had just cashed his paycheck or that he had a clean criminal record, he was booked in jailed. It did not even matter that he did not have drugs in his vehicle or that he was not a drug user or dealer. Following his arrest, Nasir was released and charges were never filed. Nevertheless, he was released to walk home penniless. Despite never having been convicted of a crime, Nasir was legally stripped of his pay and vehicle he required for work. Nasir's $8,400 is only one small part of a $5 billion a year business of civil asset forfeiture (Ingraham). Furthermore, only a few miles down the road, outside Philadelphia city limits, civil asset forfeiture is almost unheard of. Philadelphia, PAhas the largest incidence of civil asset forfeiture in the entire country. The city has double the amount of money seized in civil asset forfeiture cases as Los Angeles, CA and New York, NY combined, even though both are larger cities (Forbes). This practice of civil asset forfeiture has stemmed from the War on Drugs. The War on Drugs consists of many criminal justice policies and public health programs that treat drug addiction and drug sales as a criminal justice issue. The War on Drugs has been plagued by decades with racial disparities. The vast array of racial disparities found in the criminal justice system are found when examining civil asset forfeiture. When examining civil asset forfeiture in one state, like Pennsylvania, it becomes clear that civil seizures are more prevalent in urban communities of color. In Pennsylvania, the rural, mostly white, conservative, and working class areas, tend to have few civil seizures, but the more racially diverse urban centers have huge amounts of civil asset forfeiture.