Wednesday, September 09, 2015
DA Morganelli Has Taken $107,800 From Drug Dealers Over Past Year
Since 1992, when Morganelli started this program, more than $2 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. Drug use and drug dealing in Northampton County will be very unprofitable."
He credited Kristine Blake, Chief Prosecutor of the forfeiture Division, and Attorney Rick Santee for their work.
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.
That's in start contrast to Philadelphia, where homes are seized even when owners are unaware that drug deals are taking place inside. A civil rights suit filed last year remains unresolved, although the DA has agreed to stop barring homeowners from seized properties until the case is heard by a judge. Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pelligrini has called it "little more than state-sanctioned theft.”
State senators Mike Folmer and Anthony Williams have introduced legislation that would require a criminal conviction before an asset can be forfeited.