February 1, 2017

Senate Committee OKs Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill

The Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday amended and reported out Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon) and Sen. Joe Scarnati’s (R-Jefferson) Senate Bill 8, to reform Pennsylvania’s Asset Forfeiture Law.
“Senate Bill 8 makes technical changes and removes unfunded mandate language while maintaining unprecedented changes to civil asset forfeiture legislation from last session,” Sen. Folmer said. “I thank Senator Greenleaf for bringing this bill up for consideration in his Committee, and all the groups who worked tirelessly on these reforms.”
“I am pleased to work with Senator Folmer on this important legislation,” Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said. “This is an issue of finding good balance and fairness. Senate Bill 8 will take a positive step forward to increase transparency of how forfeited funds are used, as well as raising the burden of proof required to seize assets.”
Key Reforms in Senate Bill 8 Include:
-- Higher burdens of proof imposed on the Commonwealth;
-- Protections for third party owners by placing additional burdens of proof on the Commonwealth;
-- Improved transparency in auditing and reporting at both the county and state levels;
-- Specific and additional protection in real property cases by prohibiting the pre-forfeiture seizure of real property without a hearing; and
-- Additional procedural protections for property owners, such as returning property to the forfeiture proceeding if there is undue hardship, and an extra level of protection for anyone acquitted of a related crime who is trying to get their property back.
“This is a first step towards smarter forfeiture practices and to provide at least some level of due process for property owners,” Sen. Folmer said.
The bill was re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.