FEAR-List Bulletin posted by Roy Timpe, 4-18-95
The forfeiture reform effort is alive and well in Pennsylvania! State Representative Dennis Leh has reintroduced his forfeiture reform resolution. We lost some cosponsors in the election, however, the last introduction of the resolution had 24 cosponsors, and this one has 28, so despite some losses we have a net gain in sponsors. The 28 cosponsors are a good bipartisan cross section of the legislature. A copy of the resolution is appended.
With the help of Providence we will be able to safeguard our God given property rights from the usurpations of the legislature.
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA
HOUSE RESOLUTION NO. 67 - SESSION OF 1995
Printer's No. 985
Introduced by Leh, Itkin, Thomas, Fargo, Pistella, D. W. Snyder, DeLuca,Geist,
Trello, Argall, Colafella, Maitland, Colaizzo, Jarolin, Corrigan, Sather,
Semmel, Armstrong, Youngblood, Hershey, Pesci, Dempsey, Saylor, Rohrer,
Fleagle, Hess, Hennessey and Civera
Referred to Committee on Intergovernmental Affairs February 28, 1995
A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION
Memorializing Congress to remedy defects in Federal forfeiture law.
WHEREAS, A multitude of Federal statutes empower the Federal Government to seize the homes, cars, savings accounts and other property of American citizens if the government believes the property was used to facilitate a violation of any one of a wide range of offenses.
WHEREAS, The Federal Government can confiscate such property for its own use, as well as the use of participating local police, without the need to prove that the owners were even aware of any connection between their property and any violation of Federal law.
WHEREAS, It has been reported that a substantial number of those who lose their property through a civil forfeiture are never charged with a crime in connection with the activity giving rise to the forfeiture; and
WHEREAS, A ten-month investigation by the former Pittsburgh Press has documented over 400 cases of people who were forced to forfeit property or money to Federal authorities without any proof of their involvement or knowledge of the activity leading to the seizure.
WHEREAS, The risk of abuse in certain forfeiture actions is magnified by a Federal policy of rewarding informants with 10% of the take; and
WHEREAS, The amount deposited in the United States Department of Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund as a result of Federal forfeitures has increased from a mere $27 million in 1985 to more than half a billion dollars in 1992; and
WHEREAS, The Justice Department's recent inventory of confiscated real estate is in excess of 32,400 properties with a value of more than $1.8 billion; and
WHEREAS, The financial stake of government agencies in their own forfeiture decisions raises a substantial concern that budgetary considerations have the potential to improperly influence law enforcement determinations that should only be governed by criminal procedure.
WHEREAS, At least one major Federal forfeiture law permits local law enforcement agencies to keep 85% of the proceeds from their seizure of property whenever they use the Federal process under a procedure known as adoptive forfeiture and, thereby, circumvent state law.
WHEREAS, Many middle-income citizens are unable to challenge Federal seizures of their property because they cannot afford to pay the cost of an attorney to fight for their rights and to establish their innocence; and
WHEREAS, Certain Federal forfeiture laws contain a number of other unfair and unjust provisions, including:
(1) a shift in the burden of proof from the Federal Government to the
owner after the property is seized;
(2) a steep bonding requirement in order to contest a seizure of property;
(3) governmental immunity against liability for damage caused by the negligent handling or storage of seized property; and
(4) a restrictive deadline for challenging forfeiture; and
WHEREAS, The unsatisfactory state of the current Federal forfeiture procedure is underscored by a series of recent United States Supreme Court decisions which have found a number of Federal enforcement policies to be unconstitutional; and
WHEREAS, It is important that Congress carefully review existing forfeiture laws in order to assure that they comport with cherished American values of fairness, due process and the presumption of innocence; therefore be it
RESOLVED (the Senate concurring), That the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania memorialize Congress to seriously consider proposals to remedy any defects in Federal forfeiture laws; and be it further
RESOLVED, That Congress adopt remedial legislation to correct any abuses and defects in current Federal forfeiture laws; and be it further
RESOLVED, That copies of this resolution be transmitted to the President
of the United States, the presiding officers of each house of Congress
and to each member of Congress from Pennsylvania.