Civil asset forfeiture is a subject that brings on very heated debate, particularly in Michigan. People tend to be very against it, or wholeheartedly in favor of it. Wherever you stand on the issue, the fact remains that Michigan’s civil asset forfeiture laws are in need of an overhaul. And while it’s happening slowly, there are definitely signs of progress.
One of those signs came in the form of a bill signed into law just days ago by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. Our new law prohibits a cash bond requirement in any civil asset forfeiture proceedings. This change is only one in a long line of civil asset forfeiture reforms that have already started, and will likely continue in the future.
This new law does away with the old requirement that a person whose property has been seized in a civil asset forfeiture case, pay a cash bond before they can challenge the original seizure. Prior to January 3, 2017 a person whose assets had been seized by law enforcement had to post bond those same officers who took their belongings. The amount was usually about 10 percent of the value of the items.
We have been discussing the issues that come with civil asset forfeiture for some time now. In early 2015 we discussed ‘Policing for Profit‘ and looked at why Michigan received such a poor grade in the Institute for Justice study. In July of 2106 we shared with you the stories of people from around Michigan whose homes and lives had been violated by law enforcement during searches, and the losses they suffered as a result of civil asset forfeiture.
By the end of 2015 there was a light at the end of the tunnel…
A significant bill package was signed into law, bringing serious reform of Michigan’s civil asset forfeiture laws. Law enforcement was now required to disclose all civil asset forfeitures, and also to document seizures with far greater accuracy. In addition, the burden of proof for forfeitures was raised from “a preponderance of the evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence.”
One look at the news however, and it was easy to believe that nothing had changed. When 2016 rolled around, the media was once again brimming with stories of people losing their homes, their belongings, and their life savings to police raids accompanied by civil forfeitures. Was the light at the end of the tunnel nothing more than an oncoming train?
The answer is no. While progress hasn’t happened as quickly as people would have liked it to in Michigan, the reality is that change is underway. Our gears of justice grind very slowly, as they say, which means that any kind of meaningful change is going to take time. However, this most recent law to make it onto the books is a great start to 2017. We can only hope that the trend continues!
Until then, however, 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. The skilled defense attorneys at The Kronzek Firm have many years of experience battling abuses by police officers, and violations of your Constitutional rights. We will fight aggressively to protect your rights, and to ensure that you are treated fairly and with dignity. Call us today at 866-766-5245. An attorney is standing by to discuss your case with you at any hour, day or night.