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EDITORIAL: Civil forfeiture bill deserves to become law
It seems like a constitutional no-brainer.
Citizens who have not been convicted of a crime shouldn't have their property taken by police.
Yet, current laws allow police to do just that.
It's called civil asset forfeiture, and it's most commonly used during drug arrests.
It was originally created as a tool to go after drug cartels, but some scary reports have emerged of law enforcement officials taking assets from people who were never convicted of any offenses.
Put simply, that should never happened.
Fortunately, one of our local legislators agrees and is doing his part to make sure it doesn't happen in the future.
Mike Folmer, a Republican state senator who represents part of York County, has reintroduced a bill (Senate Bill 8) intended to protect the rights of citizens by changing the civil asset forfeiture laws.
“I believe in innocent until proven guilty,” said Folmer, who insists he's not anti-law enforcement. “And we should be cautious about turning police into revenue-generating assets. They're there to keep us safe.”
He's backing the bill despite some remarks from the leader of his own party that are being construed by some as threatening.
President Donald Trump made national headlines recently when he joked about ruining the career of a Texas state senator for proposing civil asset forfeiture reform.
Trump recently met with some county sheriffs, and one sheriff complained about the proposed Texas bill.
“Do you want to give his name? We'll destroy his career,” Trump said, and was met with laughter.
A White House spokesman later said Trump was joking, and that was almost certainly the case.
Still, even if Trump was serious, Folmer isn't worried, because he said that Trump is not a dictator.
Folmer's bill already has the support of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.
It also has bipartisan support. One of the co-sponsors of the bill is Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery and Delaware counties.
Bipartisanship is undoubtedly a good thing.
Unfortunately, Leach has recently added his petulant voice to the already rancorous political atmosphere that threatens the very foundation of our nation.
After Trump's remarks about the Texas state senator, Leach felt it necessary to Tweet: “Hey @realDonaldTrump I oppose civil asset forfeiture too! Why don't you try to destroy my career you fascist, loofa-faced s---gibbon!”
Leach's classic case of political grandstanding, however, shouldn't overshadow the real importance of a reform bill that is certainly needed.
Folmer first introduced the bipartisan civil asset forfeiture reform legislation last session and he's back at it again after making some changes to the bill.
The bill proposes to impose higher burdens of proof on the state when taking property, prohibit the taking of real property, pre-forfeiture, without a hearing and improve transparency in the auditing and reporting process at the county and state levels, among other reforms.
Folmer's determination in this matter should be admired, despite opposition from some law enforcement officials and quite possibly the president.
Hopefully, this time Folmer is successful in getting his bill passed by the legislature and signed into law by the governor.
Our citizens, and our constitution, deserve nothing less.