Deadline looming to file claim on property seized by Philly police, DA's office

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — People who lost homes, cars and money to Philadelphia's civil asset forfeiture machine are entitled to reimbursement, but time is running out to make a claim, which have to be filed by Dec. 6.

To settle a class action lawsuit last year, Philadelphia agreed to reform its overuse of civil forfeiture —  the practice of seizing assets from anyone accused of a crime, even if they're eventually acquitted. It also agreed to set up a $3 million fund to compensate the estimated 35,000 victims of its overzealous use of the tool. 

But attorney Darpana Sheth of the Institute for Justice says, so far, only about 1,200 have filed claims.

"We'd love to get that number up because everyone who was a victim of this Draconian system is entitled to get up to the full value of what they lost," she said.

Everyone who files, even if they were eventually convicted, gets $90 in recognition that the way the city used the system violated their constitutional rights. Everyone affected was mailed a claim form but they can also file online.

If you had property seized but didn't get a postcard, you can contact the Institute for Justice, which is in Arlington, Virginia.