By Tony Romeo
HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) — A state Senate committee Tuesday tackled the issue of reforming the law that allows authorities to take and keep property suspected of being used in certain crimes, including drug dealing, even when the owner hasn’t been convicted.
University of Pennsylvania law professor Louis Rulli detailed some of the excesses of what’s known as civil forfeiture law. Rulli told the state Senate Judiciary Committee a Penn Law Clinic client’s young child had her piggy bank seized by police investigating the alleged wrongdoing of a third person.
“Her daughter had a birthday party,” Rulli said. “(She) had $91 in the piggy bank.”
But Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, president of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, said a Senate bill to reform civil forfeiture is “troubling” as currently written.
“The cliché is that it throws the baby out with the bath water,” Ferman said. “And there is a great deal of good in the system we have.”
The Senate bill would, among other things, require that an owner be convicted of a crime in order for authorities to keep property or assets seized in an investigation.