PHILADELPHIA (June 3, 2015) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today issued the following statement in response to the ACLU’s report on the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Civil Forfeiture program:
“The ACLU has cynically and falsely claimed the mantle of ‘innocence’ for its attack on the public safety program known as drug forfeiture.
“Forfeiture is not a criminal process. It is a civil lawsuit, like any case in which someone is sued for causing damage to person or property. If the perpetrator loses the lawsuit, he is not ‘innocent’ any more than the reckless driver who crashes into your car. Remember, criminal charges are a separate matter, they might even be beaten in court. But if the perpetrator is brought into court in a civil case and he fails to convince the judge, agrees he was wrong or just doesn’t bother to show up he is liable and there will be a civil penalty. That is drug forfeiture.
“The district attorney’s office continues to improve and streamline its forfeiture program, especially when it comes to adding additional protections for property owners. But, unlike the ACLU, we are not willing to ignore the true innocent parties here – the underprivileged residents of drug-plagued neighborhoods. They deserve the equal protection of the law and they are entitled to expect the justice system to shut down drug houses and take guns and cash out of the hands of criminals.”