Thursday, August 21, 2014
DA to Drug Dealers: We Will Take Your House, Car & Money
Since 1992, when Morganelli started this program, more than $1.9 million has been seized. The money is then poured into local police departments, block watch groups, training and even helps pay the salary of a prosecutor.
Under state law, the District Attorney is authorized to seize money, cars and even real estate used to facilitate the drug trade. It is done by a civil action against the property itself (in rem) instead of its owner.
"The message that we want to send to those who deal in drugs is a simple and clear one," said Morganelli. "Be assured that you are doing it at your own risk. When we catch you we will seize your money, your house, your vehicle and any other ill gotten gains from your drug dealings."
Morganelli only uses his forfeiture powers against actual drug dealers. "We don't take a house if, unbeknown to you, your son is dealing drugs," he explained.
This is in stark contrast to Philadelphia. Its aggressive program, which requires innocent owners to assert that defense, seizes $6 million per year in money and property. A federal civil rights lawsuit was filed earlier this month against what lawyers call the "civil forfeiture machine" in the City of Brotherly Love. (See a video about Philadelphia's forfeiture program here.)