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PHILADELPHIA, September 20, 2018 – Senator Anthony Williams applauds the City of Philadelphia’s decision to implement substantial reform to its civil forfeiture process.
“For too long innocent residents of Philadelphia have been victim to an unfair process that allowed the police seize their property without due process,” said Williams. “I am pleased that the City of Philadelphia is realizing the process of civil forfeiture is unjust and is instituting reforms to fix the issue.”
Williams’ also thanked the Institute of Justice, who’s 2014 lawsuit challenged the city’s civil forfeiture process and was a catalyst for reform.
“I have worked with the Institute of Justice and I am proud to see their hard work is paying off to benefit the people of Philadelphia.”
The Institute of Justice’s 2014 lawsuit was on behalf of a couple who had their home seized by the police, without warning, after their son was caught selling $40 worth of drugs. There was no evidence the couple had any knowledge of the illegal activity.
The lawsuit argued that seizing the property without warning and without evidence of connection to the crime was a violation of constitutional of rights.
Reforms to the city’s civil forfeiture process will:
- Prohibit the use of civil forfeiture for small drug possession cases;
- Only allow the seizing of cash as part of a criminal case;
- Appoint judges to oversee forfeiture cases; and
- Prohibit assets of forfeiture from funding district attorney or police payroll.
“Bringing changes to the civil forfeiture process is a huge move forward for criminal justice reform,” Williams said. “This is a win for those who have been victims of unjust forfeiture in the past and a reassurance that there will be no more victims of similar situations in the future.”
According the Philadelphia Inquirer, an estimated $3 million will be returned to residents who were victims of civil forfeiture. District Attorney Krasner and Mayor Kenney will be providing more information on the reform efforts this afternoon.