Michigan’s civil forfeiture laws are a disaster. They have been a source of controversy and media scorn for years! Currently there’s a class action lawsuit against the state of Michigan challenging our asset forfeiture laws. The United States Supreme Court is still considering whether or not we’re violating our Constitution, and new laws have been introduced in Michigan hoping to reform this embarrassing state of affairs. And yet, despite all this attention, we still have cases like this one – where a man if fighting to get his car back after three years!
His car was impounded because he didn’t have insurance!
Stephen Nichols was pulled over by a Wayne County Sheriff’s deputy in Lincoln Park on June 2nd, 2015. At the time, he didn’t have insurance on his 1998 Toyota Avalon, so it was impounded and towed away. However, that was three years ago, and Nichols’ car is still sitting in an impound lot in Brownstown Township near Detroit while he battles with the police department to get it back. Why? Because despite the fact that Nichols has the right to a prompt and speedy trial, it has been three years since he last saw his car!
Nichols says the long wait is a violation of his 14th amendment rights.
Nichols and two other plaintiffs, Adam and Ryan Chapelle, have filed a suit against the state of Michigan because all three have been made to wait ridiculously long periods of time for their property which was confiscated by police in Wayne County. Named in the lawsuit are both Wayne County prosecutors and sheriffs, and Lincoln Park. According to Shaun Godwin, the attorney for the plaintiffs in this suit, “Mr. Nichols still hasn’t had a hearing, which is ridiculous. The law says prosecutors have to bring a case promptly, but it’s not defined under the law what ‘promptly’ is.” The legal gurus at The Kronzek Firm agree that this appears to violate the due process clause of our state and federal Constitution.
According to the prosecutor’s office, it’s not their fault
Ed Zelenak, attorney for Lincoln Park has pointed out that Nichols pleaded guilty to having fraudulent insurance in his case. The hold up, according to Zelenak, is probably the result of backlogs at the prosecutor’s office, which is severely understaffed. And then there’s the fact that the Wayne County prosecutor’s Office usually offers to settle these types of cases out of court for $900. But that puts property owners in the position of having to choose between taking a small amount of cash and dropping the whole thing, even if their rights were violated, or going without a vehicle for years and accruing thousands in lawyers fees while they fight it out in court.
Michigan’s civil asset forfeiture history is a shady one.
According to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Michigan police officers seized approximately $20 million-$25 million in assets every year. However, the first year they were required to report the assets they seized, the amount went down to about $15 million. So accountability has forced improvement, but we’ve a long way to go. Last year, Michigan police in Michigan seized about $13 million in assets. But of those cases, only 43 percent of those whose property was forfeited were actually charged and convicted of a crime. That’s right. According to Attorney Charles Kronzek, these seizures are actually civil proceedings that are separate and apart from any criminal cases.
Michigan has a long way to go before we get it right!
If you or a loved one have had your property seized, or your rights violated by law enforcement, whether it was an illegal search and seizure, or an improperly handled arrest, contact us immediately at 866 766 5245 (866 7No Jail). The trusted defense attorneys at The Kronzek Firm have many decades of experience battling abuses by police officers and prosecutors, and violations of your Constitutional rights.