D.A. Defends Drug Forfeitures

Says they get rid of drug properties that are neighborhood nuisances.

We told you Tuesday about a lawsuit by three property owners against the city over its drug-forfeiture practices — seizing property suspected to be used in the drug trade and keeping it, regardless of whether any criminal convictions emerge from the case.

Late Tuesday, District Attorney Seth Williams‘ office released a defense of forfeiture in Philadelphia, saying the practice helps the city close down drug properties and improve the quality of life in surrounding communities. The Public Nuisance Task Force handles such forfeitures for prosecutors:

PNTF pursues forfeiture as a final disposition judiciously. For most drug properties, PNTF does not pursue forfeiture, because the underlying issue with the real estate is resolved when a settlement agreement is reached with the property owner in which he or she agrees to take reasonable efforts to prevent future narcotics dealing from the property. We also seek forfeiture of assets such as cars and money that have been used to fuel the drug trade.

In all these efforts, we follow applicable law to protect the rights of all those involved — not only drug dealers and those associated with them, but the law-abiding citizens who are negatively affected by them.

The lawsuit alleges the city takes and sells at auction an average of 100 properties a year. In contrast, the next three largest counties in Pennsylvania took just a dozen properties through civil forfeiture from 2008 to 2011.