11 Castle Shannon Blvd Pittsburgh

11 Castle Shannon Blvd Pittsburgh

11 Castle Shannon Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15228
March 8, 2018
Thomas Westerman Wolf
PO Box 22454
Philadelphia, PA 19110
To Whom it May Concern:?
Civil Asset Forfeiture is a very large yet invisible issue; it lets corrupt officers of the law confiscate assets from private citizens without rigorous investigation. This is made worse so by the fact that confiscated property is given directly to Local Law Enforcement Agencies and thus gives them and their officers reason to “correlate” certain properties like money and property without giving the citizens a criminal charge, leaving them to fight a battle in court that is literally not worth their money or time to do.
A consequence of this forfeiture is also the fact that in a court the person that has had their property seized has to distinctly prove that the confiscated property has not been related to illicit activity, thus shifting the burden of proof to a party that should justly not have it, compiling the difficulty of retrieving properties that have been confiscated. Although there are legitimate uses for this practice, such as taking money used with drug transactions or fraudulent organizations, the low amounts of proof needed to use Civil Forfeiture, let Law Enforcement take assets from criminals, while also letting innocent people get harmed by it. Plenty of folks, even in Pennsylvania, have not had just 4 or 5 digit seizures, but the taking of cars, or even houses, for either no verifiable crime, or something minor, like misdemeanor drug possession. Nevertheless, this is simply unreasonable: some people are having their money seized without evidence, and massive financial consequences imposed. This simply will not do if Pennsylvania is to have a completely non-corrupt law enforcement system. This tool that can be used for evil should be limited so it can only be used for good.
It can be seen that civil asset forfeiture is a tool. It can be used for good, but is much too often used for bad. Certain limiters are desperately needed here: for one, all money seized should not benefit anyone in the justice / law enforcement system, and should go to unrelated funding, such as education or health care. This lowers the chances of abuse, for if there is no monetary gain from the seizure, then law enforcement will be less likely to use this power to take assets for themselves and their department. Finally, the burden of proof while contesting the civil asset forfeiture in court should be moved significantly more so to the law enforcement agency, and public defenders should be supplied to the citizen if they are less financially fortunate. These two aspects would go hand in hand, burden of proof making it so that it is easier for innocent people to get their property back, and public defenders would help poor people that are targeted by these laws so that they have someone to represent them in court. It is an undeniable fact that civil asset forfeiture is a problem in the United States. The government needs to make some big changes so that it stops being the tool of corrupt cops, and rather becomes a way to punish drug dealers and fraudsters.
Matthew Baisley


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