Today, the Justice Action Network, the largest bipartisan organization working to reform the justice system in Pennsylvania and around the country, thanks Governor Tom Wolf for signing a bill to protect Pennsylvanians’ due process and property rights. After a unanimous vote in the House, and with the Governor’s signature, Senate Bill 8 will update the state’s civil asset forfeiture statutes by providing more protections for property owners, and increasing the burden of proof placed on the government when it seeks to forfeit property.
The new law also provides procedures for Pennsylvanians to get their property back pre-forfeiture when its loss would prove a hardship, and allows for a new avenue for those acquitted of crimes to fast-track the return of their property. These reforms follow a decision from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court earlier this month that narrowed the scope of civil forfeiture.
Holly Harris, Executive Director, Justice Action Network: “Thanks to Governor Wolf, Senator Folmer, and an overwhelming bipartisan majority of lawmakers, Pennsylvania has taken the first step toward restoring property rights. This accomplishment would not have been possible without the bipartisan, big-tent effort among elected officials, advocates, and the law enforcement community.
“The state Supreme Court recently recognized the importance of narrowing the government’s ability to take property, and Pennsylvania voters overwhelmingly support these reforms. Recent polling shows 84% of Pennsylvania voters, including 80% of Republicans and 87% of Democrats, believe it is time for civil asset forfeiture reforms.
“For nearly two years, the Justice Action Network has helped build a bipartisan coalition in the state, working with leaders like Senator Mike Folmer– who pushed tirelessly to ensure that his colleagues prioritized this issue– and Senator Joe Scarnati, Chairmen Greenleaf and Marsico, House Judiciary Democratic Chairman Joe Petrarca, and Representatives Jim Cox and Jordan Harris to change Pennsylvania’s antiquated laws and help ensure that innocent property owners do not become entangled in a flawed system. Today’s signing is a step in the right direction and we will continue to stand with these leaders in Pennsylvania to make further reforms to the civil asset forfeiture process.”