If you’ve been reading the news lately here in Michigan, you’ve probably noticed that civil forfeiture is back in the limelight. Specifically, Michigan’s new civil forfeiture laws. Since this is such a heatedly debated subject, people feel very strongly about the new proposed changes that have been introduced. Yet, despite all the controversy, what is often missing is a complete understanding of the issue at hand. So we’d like to take a minute and break it down for you.
So what exactly would change about the forfeiture law in Michigan?
If the new legislation was signed into law, police would have a harder time keeping property that had been seized in drug-related investigations. Specifically, forfeiture of property valued at less than $50,000 that is taken in drug cases would be prohibited unless the defendant is convicted, deported, or chooses to relinquish ownership.
The aim here is to keep law enforcement from being able to seize assets, like money, cars and other property, unless the person they took it from is convicted of a crime. The State House of Representatives voted 83 to 26 on the bill earlier this month, and it’s now headed to the Senate
What’s wrong with Michigan’s current civil asset forfeiture laws?
The idea behind civil asset forfeiture is to punish criminals by taking away their belongings, in particular, belongings that were purchased using “dirty money.” On the flip side of that coin, civil asset forfeiture is supposed to help and support law enforcement agencies in their work, by providing them with a legitimate revenue stream. But this only works when it’s done properly. The problem has been that in Michigan, it is often not done correctly. Overreaching police departments and zealous prosecutors have grabbed assets from Michigan citizens for year, even when they are not connected to “dirty money.” The criminal defense attorneys at The Kronzek Firm have been fighting and negotiating these seizures for decades.
When the people being punished, whose assets are being taken by law enforcement are not criminals, the entire system stops working. After all, if cops can take innocent people’s things without permission, and never give them back, that’s pretty much no better than stealing. And yet that’s what’s been happening in Michigan for a very long time.
Why would laws like this make Michigan safer?
In 2015, Michigan changed our civil asset forfeiture laws, requiring law enforcement agencies to make detailed reports to the Michigan State Police for every asset they confiscate from anyone involved in a criminal investigation. The state also raised the standard for civil forfeiture to one of clear and convincing evidence of some connection to criminal activity.
However, in 2016, which is the last year we have statistics available for, law enforcement agencies across the state did forfeiture claims on the assets of 523 Michigan residents, none of whom were ever charged with the crime that the forfeiture was authorized for. Another 196 residents had their assets forfeited, despite the fact that they were later found innocent. This is a pretty good indicator that the system is broken, and in need of serious attention!
Michigan still 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 skilled defense attorneys at The Kronzek Firm have many years of experience battling abuses by police officers and prosecutors, 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. An attorney is standing by to discuss your case with you at any hour, day or night.