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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, August 21, 2014

DA to Drug Dealers: We Will Take Your House, Car & Money

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli's Drug Forfeiture Program has seized $120,544.00 in money and property from drug dealers over the twelve months ending in June 30, 2014. At a news conference on Wednesday, Morganelli explained that this includes $120,544 in cash and $11,009 in proceeds from the sale of ten forfeited vehicles and other property.

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.)


Bill said...

Most "drug dealers" are users who sell small amounts to support their own habits. There are conflicts of interest in the whole forfeiture system, law enforcement can expand their budgets through property seizure with few checks and balances that I am aware of. This is not a commentary on the DA in Northampton County but the whole system. Services to get people help for a drug problem get funding cuts year in and year out - including in Northampton County while the CJ system gets increases in funding across the system. What would happen if we treated people instead of taking all their property and throwing them in jail. The later gets quite expensive for all of us.

Anonymous said...

All bottom feeding miscreant criminals, whether it be drug dealers, counterfeiters, or crazy screwed in head women who stalk and libel others are at risk of losing their cars, houses, and money. MOLTEN LAVA will take it all out, lock stock and barrel.

Anonymous said...

Impact to overall "War on Drugs" = zero. Addiction and crime have worsened under Prohibition. But it keeps a lot of people publicly employed with unsustainable pensions. Who cares if it's a dangerous, miserable failure, right?

Anonymous said...

A total abuse of power, if you ask me. Plus, a completely misguided participant in the tragically failed "War on Drugs". Concentrate on actual violent crime.

Anonymous said...

ATF = Always Think Forfeiture

Anonymous said...

Perhaps John and other DAs will celebrate with a cocktail or two. That is, unless they're on a legally prescribed drug of choice that doesn't work well with booze. The biggest problem with drugs is the legally available (alcohol) and legally prescribed (Xanax, Oxycontin, etc.) variety. The press conference was a victory lap during a failed war. Mission accomplished, John!

Anonymous said...

WTF is it with all lowlevel arrests¿ There must be some sort of ties between drugs, housing and political parties¿ It must be the party favors that
are givin out at the ganubrial short bus ride around pa¿
patent pending

Anonymous said...

And then you have our Attorney General who is opposed to marijuana legalization in any form because, according to her, is a "gateway drug".

These prosecutor types are all the same. Drunk on power and ignorance.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, I tend to agree with many of the comments. We have become so intent on the "war on drugs" we have missed the boat on treatment and trying to get to the causes. Many arrests just very low level users and low midlevel dispensers. Replaced by others as soon as they go.

The forfeiture laws are unconstitutional in my own opinion. However, as long as they are in p0lace the money should go to treatment.

Anonymous said...

To bad we didn't have the same policy with Wall Street.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention, the assumption is made that all assets are the results of drug revenue. That is bullshit and plain theft.