Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform – Is Change On It’s Way?

Civil asset forfeiture reform is a subject that we have written about on a number of occasions in the past. It is a highly volatile subject and can be a divisive topic of conversation. Opinions are all over the place. It is a subject that needs to addressed simply because the federal law as well as Michigan’s system as it exists now is greatly in need of change. Thankfully, that change is already happening both on a local and nationwide level.


This past week in the United States Congress, bipartisan legislation was introduced by the Judiciary Committee. The legislation is entitled ‘The Deterring Undue Enforcement by Protecting Rights of Citizens from Excessive Searches and Seizures Act’ (H.R. 5283), or ‘The Due Process Act’. These bills are aimed at reducing civil asset forfeiture and increasing police accountability when handling civilian assets.


Current law allows police to seize a person’s assets

Current law both on a federal level and in the state of Michigan, allows law enforcement to seize a person’s assets, usually in the form of cash or tangible objects of value like cars and equipment, if they believe that those items have been involved in, or results from any type of criminal activity. This law was initially introduced in order to allow law enforcement another way in which to target drug dealers and those involved in organized crime.


Application of the law has become rife with government overreach and abuse of citizens. Because the law doesn’t require that a person be prosecuted or convicted of a crime in order for the police to permanently seize their property, a substantial number of innocent people have lost their property to police seizure over the years without ever having been convicted of a crime.


The Act was initially introduced in 2014 by Michigan’s Congressman Tim Walberg. He has spoken publicly on a number of occasions about the need for reform of civil asset forfeiture laws. On one occasion after introducing the bills, Congressman Walberg told the media that “In a country founded on principles of due process and property rights, no one should be comfortable with a system that allows law enforcement to seize personal property without a finding of guilt.”


As of now, a person does not have to be charged with, or convicted of, a crime in order for law enforcement to justify seizing their assets. This is because the standard of evidence to justify civil asset seizure is such that law enforcement is required to prove “by a preponderance of the evidence” that the assets in question were involved in criminal activity. Note that the civil standard which is “preponderance of the evidence” is much easier to prove than “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that is required for criminal convictions.


The Due Process Act would change the way asset forfeiture takes place by increasing the standard of evidence to “clear and convincing” evidence, which is the highest in civil court. This would go a long way towards protecting the rights of private citizens across the nation from law enforcement agents who would take advantage of them.


If you have had assets seized from you by the police, it is important that you act quickly toward getting them back. Our attorneys have decades of experience fighting civil forfeiture cases all over Michigan.

Back to
Top ▲
Aggressive Criminal Defense