April 27, 2017

Senate Passes Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Legislation

On Wednesday the Senate passed Senate Bill 8 (Folmer-R-Lebanon) providing for what its prime sponsor called “unprecedented asset forfeiture reforms.”
“Senate Bill 8 makes significant and unprecedented asset forfeiture reforms,” said Sen. Mike Folmer. “This is a first step towards smarter forfeiture practices and to provide at least some level of due process for property owners.”
Some of the important 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.
“Today the Senate has advanced Senate Bill 8, which 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,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati. “I am pleased to work with Senator Folmer on this issue, and hope that our colleagues in the House of Representatives will take up this important legislation in the near future.”
“I thank my Senate leadership for helping this important legislation move forward, as well as all the groups who worked tirelessly on these reforms,” said Sen. Folmer.
The bill now goes to the House for action.  A Senate Fiscal Note and summary is available.