Ending Use of Seized Assets By Philadelphia District Attorney, Police Proposed as Part of Settlement

A class-action lawsuit has challenged the way the city uses personal assets seized in drug cases.

PHA House Blight_20645225
NBC10

A controversial tactic involving the seizure of personal property in Philadelphia that has long driven a wedge between some in the community and those in law enforcement could soon come to an end.

The city District Attorney's office confirmed Saturday that the practice of civil forfeiture will no longer operate in a way that allows the DA's office and city police department to use seized property for their "law enforcement needs" if a federal judge approves of a proposed change. 

The change comes as part of a proposed settlement to a class-action lawsuit dating to 2014. It was first reported by Philly.com.

"By agreeing to discontinue the expenditure of forfeiture proceeds on law enforcement needs in the District Attorney's Office and Police Department — even though that is permitted by statute — we eliminate, once and for all, any concern of improper motives for forfeiture," DA spokesman Cameron Kline said in a statement Saturday.

The proceeds from drug busts will now be directed to programs in support of ending the out-of-control opioid epidemic, "such as by providing drug treatment, drug prevention programs, and to alleviate blight associated with the drug trade," Cameron said.

Ongoing litigation has already changed the way city agencies seize assets, Cameron said. The city and its law enforcement arms have adapted in essence to "eliminate, once and for all, any concern improper motives for forfeiture," he said.

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