ACLU Supports Legislation to Reform PA’s Asset Forfeiture Laws

June 03, 2015
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Current Laws Do Not Provide Adequate Protection for Property Owners

HARRISBURG – The ACLU of Pennsylvania supports legislation introduced by Senator Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) to reform Pennsylvania’s civil asset forfeiture laws. Under Pennsylvania’s current civil asset forfeiture laws, law enforcement can take and keep property it claims is connected to illegal activity without charging the property owner with a crime. Prosecutors and police who make decisions about when to pursue civil forfeiture are then allowed to keep 100% of the forfeiture profits for their own budgets, meaning they have a direct financial incentive to forfeit as much property as possible.

Over the last ten years, Pennsylvania law enforcement has taken over $100 million in private property – including homes, cars, and cash - through civil asset forfeiture. Originally designed as a tool to divest drug kingpins of their ill-gotten fortunes, civil forfeiture is increasingly used to take homes, cars, and petty cash from ordinary Pennsylvanians.

Senate Bill 869 is a comprehensive reform of Pennsylvania’s asset forfeiture laws. The proposed law requires that property owners first be convicted of a crime before their property is forfeited and ends the profit incentive for law enforcement to seek forfeiture by requiring that proceeds of forfeiture be deposited into a general government fund.

 “The government should not be allowed to take and keep your property without convicting you of a crime. It’s long past time to reform Pennsylvania’s asset forfeiture laws and end this ‘policing for profit’ scheme,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

In addition to the ACLU of Pennsylvania, a broad array of organizations supports reforming asset forfeiture to protect Pennsylvanians’ due process rights, including the Commonwealth Foundation, Americans for Prosperity-Pennsylvania, Keystone Progress, and the Pennsylvania Prison Society, among others. The effort is also supported by the Coalition for Public Safety, a national organization that includes FreedomWorks, Americans for Tax Reform, the ACLU, and the Center for American Progress.

More information about civil asset forfeiture can be found at: www.aclupa.org/forfeiture

Category: Criminal Justice
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