Presumed Guilty

Copyright, 1991, The Pittsburgh Press Co.
By Andrew Schneider and Mary Pat Flaherty
The Pittsburgh Press (Reprinted with permission)

The Law's Victims In The War On Drugs

It's a strange twist of justice in the land of freedom. A law designed to give cops the right to confiscate and keep the luxurious possessions of major drug dealers mostly ensnares the modest homes, cars and cash of ordinary, law-abiding people. They step off a plane or answer their front door and suddenly lose everything they've worked for. They are not arrested or tried for any crime. But there is punishment, and it's severe.

This six-day series chronicles a frightening turn in the war on drugs. Ten months of research across the country reveals that seizure and forfeiture, the legal weapons meant to eradicate the enemy, have done enormous collateral damage to the innocent. The reporters reviewed 25,000 seizures made by the Drug Enforcement Administration. They interviewed 1,600 prosecutors, defense lawyers, cops, federal agents and victims. They examined court documents from 510 cases. What they found defines a new standard of justice in America: You are presumed guilty.

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