Good News about Civil Asset Forfeiture in Michigan
First let us define what Civil Asset Forfeiture is, according to the Heritage Foundations website:
It is a legal tool that allows law enforcement officials to seize property that they assert has been involved in certain criminal activity. In fact, the owner of the property doesn’t even need to be guilty of a crime: Civil asset forfeiture proceedings charge the property itself with involvement in a crime. This means that police can seize your car, home, money, or valuables without ever having to charge you with a crime. There are many, many stories of innocent people being stripped of their money and property by law enforcement.
Michigan has been a leading state when it came to civil asset forfeiture of its citizen’s property. Michigan received a grade of D- for its civil asset forfeiture laws in a 2015 study by the Institute for Justice. The legislature, being prodded by certain citizen lead groups, has been working for a few years to reform this law.
One of the worst parts of this law is in many cases even if the owner is never convicted or even charged with a crime the state keeps their property. The owner can challenged the states but that has cost quite a bit of money and time.
According to the Michigan Capitol Confidential News site one of the requirements was the person whose property was seized as part of civil asset forfeiture pay a cash bond in order to challenge that seizure. On top of that Michigan law had allowed law enforcement agencies to keep cash bonds, typically 10% of the value of property estimated to be worth $250 to $5,000.
Well on January 3rd Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation, HB 4629, that bans a cash bond requirement in civil asset forfeiture proceedings.
On top of the reform in the cash bond area of the law in 2015, Governor Snyder signed a package of seven bills into law that requires law enforcement to disclose civil asset forfeitures and do a better job of documenting seizures. The burden of proof for civil asset forfeitures was also raised from “preponderance of evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence.”
Now do not get me wrong I believe that civil asset forfeiture has it place because I do not want convicted and the key word is convicted criminals to profit from their criminal activity. What we cannot allow is the state to keep the assets of Michigan citizens or for that matter any citizen without being convicted of a crime in which they then were able to buy or acquire the assets.
We are now moving in the right direction in Michigan when it comes to civil asset forfeiture.
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