As Feds Expand Forfeiture, Michigan Looks to Restrict It

Preserving property rights is essential

The Trump administration is gearing up to expand federal forfeitures, a law enforcement tool that enables the government to confiscate people’s property before they are convicted of a crime.

Policy Analyst Jarrett Skorup writes in Forbes that this is a bad move:

Although the Department of Justice under President Obama had begun curtailing the ability of local law enforcement agencies to share forfeiture profits with federal ones, a new DOJ memo indicates a reversal of policy. The DOJ curtailed “adoptive” seizures – where law enforcement uses looser federal laws rather than more restrictive state ones – in early 2015. The recent order “plan[s] to develop polices to increase forfeitures.”

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the new policy will still require “probable cause” before the property can be forfeited by the Feds. But that standard of evidence is way too low, and it's what has led to widespread abuse across the states. That’s why many have begun making reforms.

The protection of private property is a bipartisan issue, and the passage of new laws and amendments reinforcing our bedrock Constitutional property right have been widespread. The vast majority of Americans oppose a scheme by which innocent people can lose their property without ever being convicted of a crime. It’s past time for the Trump administration to get on board.

Skorup also discussed the new federal policy with the Detroit News and talked about what Michigan is trying to do in order to better protect the rights of citizens:

The new federal policy could make it easier for state or local agencies to pursue civil asset forfeiture in Michigan, said Jarrett Skorup of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. In cases involving federal laws, those agencies could seize property “just based on probable cause rather than what our state standards require, which is clear and convincing evidence.”

The reform coalition supports [a] bill to require a criminal conviction [and] wants to see a larger package that also would limit what police agencies can do with cash or property they confiscate, Skorup said. “All the money goes back to law enforcement, and that creates an incentive,” he said.

Learn more about forfeiture and track what is happening in Michigan at