Court tightens rules for seizing properties tied to crime

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Pennsylvania’s highest court is limiting the power of prosecutors to seize people’s property through civil actions.

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that prosecutors must prove the property was used to commit a crime and its value must be proportionate to the offense.

The justices sided with a 72-year-old woman who argued her minivan and home in west Philadelphia were unfairly taken after her son was investigated for selling marijuana.

The court says it’s unconstitutional for the government to take the property if its value is grossly disproportionate to the gravity of the crime.

The justices say courts should consider the “harshness” of the forfeiture and how much, if anything, the owner knew about the crime.

The case goes back to court in Philadelphia for analysis under the newly articulated standards.

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