ACLU, Tea Party Join Forces to Challenge Forfeiture Law

Law lets police permanently take a person's property — even if they aren't convicted of a crime.

It’s not every day that the American Civil Liberties Union and the Tea Party are on the same side.

But the ACLU, FreedomWorks, Americans for Tax Reform, the Center for American Progress, the Faith and Freedom Coalition and several other groups are teaming up under the name “Fix Forfeiture” to radically transform a controversial practice that allows the government to seize private property. And Pennsylvania is the supergroup’s No. 1 target.

Under state law, authorities can take cars and even cash from residents if they believe that the property is connected to a crime, even if that person is never charged, let alone convicted, of wrongdoing.

Fix Forfeiture wants to completely change that. They group supports bills such as one introduced by state Sens. Mike Folmer and Anthony Hardy Williams, which would revamp the process known as “civil-asset forfeiture” by requiring that a resident is convicted of a crime before law enforcement officials can permanently keep their property. (The authorities would still be able to temporarily seize items without a conviction, however.) The legislation would also require that all proceeds from civil asset forfeiture go into the city’s or Pennsylvania’s general fund.

The York Daily Record reported:

[The group] is currently fighting for changes in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, but intends to take an even greater focus on Pennsylvania.

“All of the organizations come to these reforms from a different perspective but they all agree that these reforms are necessary,” said Holly Harris, the executive director. “So we’re talking about the far right and the far left coming together.”

Despite each group having widely differing ideologies and views, they have each come together to organize under Fix Forfeiture to rally behind bills like Pennsylvania Senate Bill 869.

The Senate bill is stuck in committee, as is similar legislation in the House. The fact that Fix Forfeiture is coming to Pennsylvania means that those proposals have a much, much better chance of getting off the ground now. But it still may take a while for them to pass, since Republican legislators and Gov. Tom Wolf are at a stalemate over the state budget that was supposed by finished on July 1st.