Require a criminal conviction before taking people’s property
Lansing began 2017 on the right foot by enacting a law to make it easier for people to try to recover property seized through civil asset forfeiture, but the state should end the practice altogether.
Last week, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the ACLU of Michigan issued a joint press release applauding the Michigan Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder for passing and signing into law House Bill 4629. The new law removes the requirement that people pay a bond equivalent to 10 percent of the value of the property seized through civil asset forfeiture if they want to try to get it back.
“This new law will further protect the constitutional rights of citizens,” said Jarrett Skorup, a policy analyst at the Mackinac Center. “But Michigan needs to do more. Twelve states require law enforcement to get a criminal conviction before forfeiting property and two – New Mexico and Nebraska – have banned civil forfeiture altogether.”
Skorup spoke with ABC 12 this week about the case of a Genesee County man whose property was seized by a Saginaw County detective in 2014.
“All we know is the police never pressed charges against him, never convicted him, yet they ended up with over $20,000 in cash and some of his property, and that should raise a lot of eyebrows for people,” Skorup said.
Now, a Saginaw County deputy is suing over the matter, saying the sheriff’s department retaliated against him after reporting the seized money was used for confidential informant drug buys.
Since 2015, the state of Michigan has passed several reforms to limit how police may seize property. The standard of evidence required to take property is now higher, and the process is more transparent.
“Previously, if they wanted to forfeit someone’s stuff, it was based on a very low standard of evidence, and they’ve raised that a little bit higher,” Skorup told WSJM. “However, they still aren’t requiring that someone be convicted of a crime in order to take their stuff and forfeit it over to the state.”
Skorup added that a number of incoming legislators are interested in further reforming Michigan’s civil forfeiture laws.
Read the full report at WSJM.
Watch ABC 12’s full coverage.
Read the full press release.
Read the Mackinac Center and ACLU’s report “Civil Forfeiture in Michigan: A Review and Recommendations for Reforms.”