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Frequently Asked Questions

1. My boyfriend was convicted on a drug case and the police took over a thousand dollars in cash from him – most of that money was his tax refund.  Can the police keep this money?

The drug forfeiture act allows the government to seize and retain property that was used to commit drug sales and property that is derived from drug sales.  The government will assert that your boyfriend earned the money from selling drugs.  If that is true, then the government will keep the money.  (The District Attorney’s office gets the money – not the police, by the way.) 

However, if your boyfriend can prove that there was a legal and lawful source of the money, then the government would not be successful in their goal.  A petition for return of property needs to be filed with supporting documentation (tax return, refund check, ATM receipt, etc…).  If the Judge finds your boyfriend’s evidence persuasive, he will get the money back.

 

2. We bought a condo for our son to live in while he was attending college in the Philadelphia suburbs.  The police have arrested him for selling marijuana out of the condo and the government has filed paperwork to seal our condo.  We still have a large mortgage on the property and monthly bills.  What can we do?

Pennsylvania law recognizes an “innocent owner defense” to property forfeiture cases, and your case is a classic example of an innocent owner.  The government bears the burden to prove that you knew about your son’s alleged illegal activities and continued to consent to him using the property to make those drug sales.  Clearly, you did not know about this.  Given that you are all the way across the country in California, I would think it very difficult for the government to prove that you knew what was happening here in the Philadelphia area.  The first step is to file a motion to unseal the house, which can be in front of a judge in a matter of days.  The second step is to file a return of property motion.  Based on my experience, I predict this is the type of case that can be negotiated with just a few telephone calls to the District Attorney.

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