Gov. Tom Wolf Thursday signed Senate Bill 8 (Folmer-R-Lebanon) into law as Act 13 of 2017. The bipartisan bill reforms asset forfeitures, which are civil proceedings against property that allow law enforcement to take possession of property of certain persons suspected of crime.
“While I support further reforms to expand the role of a criminal conviction in asset forfeiture, this bill is a step forward to create higher burdens of proof imposed on the seizure of private property by the government,” Gov.Wolf said. “Further, the bill increases transparency and accountability for law enforcement organizations and protects property owners who are not directly involved in a suspected criminal act. In divided government, we must recognize the value of bipartisan progress, while continue to advocate for greater reform.”
The new law creates 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 seeking the return of their property.
A Senate Fiscal Note and summary is available.