New Forfeiture Law Balanced and Meaningful

June 29, 2017

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association said today that bipartisanship and cooperation led to the balanced and meaningful reforms to Pennsylvania’s civil asset forfeiture laws signed into law today and thanked Governor Tom Wolf and Senators Joe Scarnati, Stewart Greenleaf, Mike Folmer, and Jay Costa, as well as Representatives Dave Reed and Frank Dermody for their support.

“SB 8 makes many significant changes to the forfeiture law,” said PDAA President and Lebanon County District Attorney David J. Arnold, Jr. “At the same time, the legislation strikes the right balance between ensuring the protection of people’s rights and ensuring that the ability of drug dealers to traffic, sell and profit from drug dealing does not become easier.”

Reforms in the bill include increasing the standards by which the Commonwealth must prove its forfeiture case, shifting the burden of proof to the Commonwealth in cases involving third parties, increasing transparency about how forfeiture funds are used, and providing for heightened requirements on the Commonwealth when real property is sought to be forfeited, among other things.  At the same time, the bill maintains appropriate aspects of the current system so as not to unintentionally reward those who profit from drug dealing.

“Throughout this process, district attorneys believed there would be a way to tighten the procedures that govern civil forfeiture without harming our ability to take the profit out of the drug trade and keep our communities safe from drug traffickers,” said Arnold.  “The end results are good reforms that also preserve public safety.

The civil forfeiture process is designed to carefully protect people’s rights.  Proceedings are governed by extensive civil statutory requirements, due process, court rules, and case law.

Forfeiture is often used to take the money and tools of the drug trade out of the hands of criminals.  Communities also use forfeiture proceeds to invest in crime fighting and community building tools.  Drug task forces, the heroin antidote naloxone and investments in technology are just a few examples of how forfeiture turns drug money into a net win for taxpayers and the community.