Pennsylvania Papers Agree: Time for Civil Asset Forfeiture Reforms

After Fix Forfeiture testified at the Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on civil asset forfeiture reforms earlier this week, the state’s newspapers demonstrated their support.

Here’s what they said:

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Forfeiting a right: Property should be seized only after a conviction

“Here’s an outrageous fact about crime and punishment in Pennsylvania: Your property, whether in the form of cash, cars or housing, can be seized by law enforcement even if you’re not convicted of a crime. The state’s civil asset forfeiture law makes it possible for police to confiscate private property merely on the suspicion that it is being used in the commission of a crime.”

“Fixing the state’s asset forfeiture law not only would be a triumph for common sense, but the right thing to do. The Legislature should agree.”

Lancaster Online: Civil forfeiture law must respect the rights of innocent in war against drugs

“The state Senate Judiciary Committee heard arguments over a bill that would change the process by which law enforcement can seize and keep money or property believed to be connected to crime. There is bipartisan backing, in Pennsylvania and nationwide, to reform civil asset forfeiture. A recent poll shows that the more Pennsylvanians learn about the practice, the more they support changing it. Senate Bill 869 would require that a person be convicted of a crime before law enforcement can keep his or her property.”

“Too many people are getting caught up in nets cast too wide by law enforcement officials.”

Washington Observer-Reporter: State’s civil asset forfeiture laws must be changed

“Mark down this day – Democrats and Republicans in Harrisburg are in agreement on something! What they appear to have reached bipartisan concord on is reform of the commonwealth’s civil asset forfeiture law. A state Senate committee is due to look at a bill this week that would eliminate what some have described as “state-sanctioned theft.”

“Both the left-leaning American Civil Liberties Union and the libertarian-leaning Institute for Justice agree that the law is draconian.”

“The bedrock of American justice is a presumption of innocence. Absent a conviction, fairness demands that people should be allowed to have their property returned to them.”

The Citizens’ Voice: Rein in law of forfeiture

“Civil asset forfeiture, the addictive device by which police and prosecutors are able to confiscate property with the barest nod to due process, inherently is unfair even in concept. But as a recent state legislative hearing demonstrated, the practice is grotesquely unfair in practice.

The idea behind the law is that drug traffickers not only should be arrested but stripped of the proceeds of their trade and of anything that helped them conduct it.

Fair enough. But that’s rarely how it has worked. Many police agencies, with the help of local prosecutors, have turned the practice into a major revenue generator. They have seized vehicles drug suspects borrowed from relatives, the houses where dealers live regardless of whether the property owners are engaged in or even aware of the suspect’s activity, and many other such assets.

Pennsylvania has one of the most aggressive civil forfeiture asset laws, but there appears to be a consensus to make it fairer.”