Commentary

Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws Need Reform

Transparency, rule of law should be the focus

A recent CapCon story and video documented the Michigan State Police using civil asset forfeiture to freeze the bank accounts and take the property of two men for months without even charging them with a crime.

Forfeiture is a complicated process, but essentially allows for an end-run around what most people see as basic constitutional rights. Michigan should join other states, like North Carolina or Minnesota, in requiring a criminal conviction before assets can be seized. That won’t happen anytime soon, but in the meantime there are other reforms that politicians should consider during this lame-duck period.

The bill with the greatest chance is House Bill 5081, which was passed out of the House Oversight Committee last June. It now sits on the House floor. This bill would provide more transparency for the assets seized — something extremely important because law enforcement agencies use seized assets to supplement their budgets.

There are other proposals that would help change the incentives in place right now. That’s the key to respecting individual rights and a strong rule of law.