Partial deal struck on civil forfeitsures in Philadelphia

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A tentative settlement should help rein in part of the civil forfeiture process in Philadelphia. 

The Philadelphia district attorney’s office was sued over the civil forfeiture program, in which it confiscates homes or property believed to have been used in furthering a crime.

In some cases, houses have been taken even in the absence of proof that the homeowner committed a crime.

Attorney David Rudovsky, who represents the plaintiffs in the class-action suit,  said two major issues have been worked out.

“Absent some very, very unusual circumstances [the district attorny’s office] will have to give notice to the homeowner and a hearing in court,” he said.

That’s a big deal, because hearings are routinely held after a property is seized.

Rudovsky says the Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams also has agreed not to impose concessions on homeowners before returning seized property.

Points of contention still remain, however, and a legal challenge to civil forfeitures in Philadelphia is pending.  The next hearing in the case is set for July 20.

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