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York County Judge Rules Law Enforcement Overzealous in Property Forfeiture

A judge in York County recently ruled that local law enforcement engaged in a pattern of seizing property with high resale value in criminal cases, even if that property was not linked to drug money or other illegal activities.

In the case, a 46-year-old man was arrested in March 2016 for selling heroin to a pair of police informants. After executing a search warrant in the man’s home, the York County Drug Task Force seized items that included a pair of TVs, a 2004 Mercedes-Benz CLK and a 1996 Dodge Neon. The man ultimately pleaded guilty to two counts of possession with intent to deliver heroin and was sentenced to four to eight years in prison.

After the sentencing, the court found that law enforcement “engaged in a shopping spree for the benefit of their budget,” choosing to seize high-value items despite there being no evidence they were linked to drugs. Furthermore, the court found the Drug Task Force has an ongoing habit of disproportionately seizing valuable assets — especially TVs, gaming systems and video games — regardless of links to illegal activity.

Law enforcement officials in the case were allowed to hold on to a handgun, a safe and nearly $1,000 in cash that was seized.

Protections from unreasonable seizures

The U.S. Constitution protects citizens against unreasonable and unlawful searches and seizures, and there are both state and federal laws that dictate what law enforcement agencies may and may not do with regard to seizure and forfeiture. If you believe your rights have been violated during the course of your criminal proceedings, it is important you speak to an attorney and assert your rights.

To learn more about your options after an arrest, consult skilled Berks County criminal defense lawyer David R. Eshelman.


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