Last year federal law enforcement seized more than 5 billion dollars in assets from American citizens. Most of the cash and property was taken under civil asset forfeiture laws. Under federal and state laws, the government can claim an individual’s assets connected to illegal activity. The problem is the so called connection to illegal activity is often tenuous. For example in Philadelphia the Office of the District Attorney has seized homes belonging to family members of suspected drug dealers. In Pennsylvania the standard for proving a connection to legal activity is by a preponderance of the evidence, a lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt.
According to the ACLU, Pennsylvania law enforcement has seized over $100 million dollars from Pennsylvania residents in the last ten years. This staggering number points to the prevalence of civil asset forfeiture and it’s disturbing implications of policing for profit.
On March 23, 2016, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found it was not illegal to take an elderly woman’s home and mini-van after her son was arrested for selling marijuana. This draconian ruling will continue to enable law enforcement authorities to seize first and ask questions later.
In Philadelphia, the DA’s office continues to claim millions of dollars every year from arrests stemming from alleged drug transactions and other illegal activity. Funds and property seized during an arrest in Philadelphia are rarely returned even when the defendant is exonerated of all charges.
If you have been arrested for a crime or are a victim of civil asset forfeiture, contact the Law Office of Mark D. Copoulos. We will challenge the forfeiture and do everything possible to protect both your liberty and your possessions from the government. If your property has been wrongfully taken, we will file the requisite petitions to get the case before a judge.