A Pennsylvania appellate court has restricted when prosecutors can seize homes used by convicted drug dealers.

The 5-2 majority opinion by Commonwealth Court applies to homeowners who can show they had little or no involvement in illegal activity.

The Commonwealth Court decision would establish sweeping new rules of evidence the city must meet if it is to prevail in some seizure cases.

Seizures of properties by law enforcement have caused an outcry across the country because such civil forfeitures can move forward even if the homeowner has not been criminally convicted.

"My sense overall is that this decision will ensure a more rigorous constitutional analysis," said Jessica Anthony, who led the team of pro bono lawyers at Ballard Spahr that filed the appeal and argued the case.

Anthony represented Elizabeth Young, a retired Amtrak employee whose home was ordered seized in 2012 after a Common Pleas Court trial in Philadelphia. The District Attorney's Office had instituted civil forfeiture proceedings against Young following the arrest of her son, Donald Graham, for dealing small amounts of marijuana there. According to the appeals court, the value of the marijuana Graham sold to undercover agents totaled no more than $190.

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