August 9, 2017By Brian Manchester
Civil Asset Forfeiture is one of the major ways in which Pennsylvania use the police to legally take possession of your cars, cash, jewelry, or even houses. You are likely reading this because your cash or property was taken by the police in Pennsylvania. You are also saying to yourself you have done nothing wrong. Well that probably is true but if your cash or property has been seized that means the government says you have done something wrong. Even if you have not been charged. The government likes to say you have done something wrong so they can use the law to intimidate you using the law and their resources to keep your property. That is wrong and that is why my law firm fights civil asset forfeitures using the full force of the law. Read below and you will see how specific legal defenses can give you a fighting chance to have your seized property returned to you.
The Federal Government through Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reversed policies put into place to protect people who have not been charged with any crimes yet had property taken from them. This change in policy will allow local police in Pennsylvania and across the US to circumvent around state laws by including the Federal Government into the seizures, thus using the Federal guidelines for the seizure. Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated that “no criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime” the problem with this is that a lot of the time there is no criminal charges brought by the police; just a seizure of cash, a car, or house. You have to be able to fight back. Below I go over a few of the specific legal defenses that can be raised when fighting back against these forfeitures.
Specific Legal Defenses.
Innocent Owner Defense. This is a Defense for when Conveyances and/or Real Property is seized. This Defense is only available once per item. Thus if they Commonwealth seized the property again in the future you cannot again make the same claim of an innocent owner. The defense is for the actual owner of the property who has no knowledge and has not consented to the drug related activities that were occurring with the use of the property. This lack of knowledge must be reasonable under the circumstances presented in the case. This Defense is very useful when a parent is the owner of a vehicle that one of their children are uses for college. Then the child gets into some trouble and the car is seized. Most of the time the parents are not aware of their children committing criminal offenses.
Small Amount Defense. No conveyance can be forfeited for a violation of a small amount of marijuana. The police may seize the vehicle but they are not allowed to receive a forfeiture for the vehicle if they only crime that occurred was for a small amount of marijuana.
Constitutional 8th Amendment Defense. This defense is based on the comparison of the alleged crime that occurred and the value of the property taken. Forfeitures are considered fines, fines are considered to be punishments, thus Forfeitures are punishments. The 8th Amendment of the US Constitution and Article 1 section 13 of the PA constitution prohibit cruel and unusual punishment such as excessive fines. The PA Supreme Court has stated that first the court must assess whether the property sought to be forfeited is an instrumentality of the underlying offense. If the property is not found to be an instrumentality of the criminal conduct, the inquiry is dispositive and ends, and the forfeiture is unconstitutional. Secondly whether the value of the property sought to be forfeited is grossly disproportional to the gravity of the underlying offense. If it is grossly disproportional, the forfeiture is unconstitutional.
If you, your son, daughter, loved one in Pennsylvania has had their property or cash seized on the highways or roads in Pennsylvania or has been arrested for a crime in state or federal court in Pennsylvania you need legal representation Here at Manchester and Associates we represent people across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for cash and property seizures often. We have taken these cases to trial and won as well as successfully settled them all across Pennsylvania. If your cash or property was seized in Pennsylvania, you have a limited time to claim your property or cash seized due to time limits set forth in the law so call us immediately. For a free consultation we can be contacted at 1-800-243-4878.