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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: December 8, 2016 01:35 PM
From: Senator Mike Folmer and Sen. Joseph B. Scarnati, III
To: All Senate members
Subject: Reintroduction of Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform
In the near future, we will be reintroducing a slightly modified version of last session’s Civil Asset Reform measure as Senate Bill 8.

Asset forfeitures are civil proceedings against property that allow law enforcement to take possession of property of certain persons suspected of crime. Drug arrests are the most common examples of seizures: cash, cars, and sometimes homes.

Previously Senate Bill 869, which was overwhelmingly passed the full Senate in late September, SB 8 reflects months of discussions among various parties, resulting in proposed significant changes to civil asset forfeiture in Pennsylvania in several key areas, including:
  • Higher burdens of proof imposed on the Commonwealth;
  • Protection for third-party owners by placing an additional burden of proof on the Commonwealth;
  • Improved transparency in auditing and reporting;
  • Specific and additional protection in real property cases by prohibiting the pre-forfeiture seizure of real property without a hearing, and;
  • An extra level of protection for anyone acquitted of a related crime who is trying to get their property back

    Support for these proposed changes included Fix Forfeiture and the District Attorneys’ Association, who agreed with us this legislation would be an important first step towards smarter forfeiture practices and better due process for property owners.

    SB 8 will represent a modified SB 869 in two key areas:
  • Elimination of the requirement to appoint a public defender in civil asset forfeiture cases. After Senate passage of SB 869, this was determined to be an unintended yet nonetheless unfunded mandate on counties, and;
  • Various technical changes as changing Pennsylvania civil asset forfeiture law impacts a number of other statues – care must be taken to ensure each is properly referenced.

    We hope you will join us in introducing this important measure. Thank you.

Introduced as SB8