Candy (Forfeiture)

In October 2014, Candy greeted me in church with a hug.  “I’ve unpacked my boxes,” she  told me. In June, Candy had packed to move from the row home in Hunting Park she has lived in for 30 years.

She is 75 years old, unable to go up stairs, so the prospect of moving from her first floor apartment was very distressing for her.  Plus, Candy was a pillar in the Hunting Park community, where most of her family lives and where she’s been a leader in the Spanish speaking congregation that met in our building.  But, her landlord had been forced to ask her to move by the District Attorney’s office.  A resident of her house had been arrested for selling drugs and the DA’s office had filed a Petition to Forfeit the house.  At a hearing where Candy and her landlord appeared without counsel, the DA chastised Candy and told her she was a bad influence in the neighborhood.  He threatened her landlord by telling her he was going to take her house unless she evicted Candy.

Candy came to CLCP’s Ayuda Legal Clinic in North Philadelphia anxious and fearful.  I reviewed the situation with her and offered to call her landlord and the DA.  The DA was adamant that Candy had to move out or he would move ahead with the forfeiture.  Candy’s landlord was different.  She loved Candy and told me, “If you will fight for me, I will risk  losing my house for Candy.” The two are as close as dear sisters.

I researched the law and found that the DA had no grounds for the Petition.  There was no way he could prove that the landlord had knowledge of any drug activity, and the person who had been selling drugs had done it outside, and carefully concealed the drugs so that Candy wouldn’t know about it.  Candy would never have knowingly allowed drugs in her home.  I answered the Petition and wrote to the DA explaining why he should withdraw it.  I called Candy and told her she could stay.  At first she didn’t believe me.  I assured her that we would fight and win for her.  It was still another month before she began unpacking her boxes.

Just before the hearing was to be held this week on the forfeiture petition, the District Attorney finally agreed to withdraw it. After so long a battle, Candy’s story finally has a happy ending.