Four years after the Philadelphia District Attorney seized her house without ever charging her with a crime, a 72-year-old grandmother has prevailed at the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, where justices strengthened protections for property owners against civil asset forfeiture.

In a unanimous opinion issued last Thursday, the Philadelphia Supreme Court tightened the rules for seizing property, ruling that, although police and prosecutors have the authority to take property used in illegal activities, there must be clear evidence that the property owner knew of and agreed to the crimes.

Under civil asset forfeiture laws, police can seize property suspected of being connected to a crime, even if the owner is never convicted and charged. This extends to situations where the property owner is not even involved in the alleged crime, such as a mother whose son catches a DUI while driving her car, or, in the case at hand, a grandmother whose son is arrested for selling $140-worth of marijuana to an undercover cop.

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