Grandmother, 72, could get home, vehicle returned after court's asset forfeiture ruling

PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia grandmother could be one step closer to being allowed back into her home after Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled to limit the power that prosecutors have to seize private citizens’ property through civil courts.

Elizabeth Young had to forfeit her home and minivan when her adult son was arrested, charged with selling marijuana from her property, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Prosecutors said she was told about her son’s illegal sales on her property when police searched her home twice and that she could have stopped him from selling.

Justices said in their unanimous decision that courts must consider “the potential harshness of a forfeiture against a property owner with no alleged criminal conduct, or minor culpability.”

Law enforcement has used civil forfeiture to bring down drug dealers by throwing them in jail and seizing their property, the Inquirer reported.

In Philadelphia, law enforcement has seized 1,000 homes, more than 3,000 vehicles and $44 million in cash for more than a decade, Forbes reported. The proceeds from forfeiture are given back to law enforcement, The Philadelphia Tribune reported.

Justices said the lower court did not take into account the fact that Young allowed her son to return home with the promise that he stopped using drugs, and if she found any in her home she would evict him, Forbes reported. She also asked police for evidence of her son's crimes, which was not produced, the court said.

Young's son was arrested for selling $140 worth of marijuana, the Inquirer reported. The home was valued at $54,000, The Tribune reported.