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Forfeiture reform bills sent to Governor Snyder

Jeremy Lim
flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Legislature has sent bills to Governor Rick Snyder that make some big changes to Michigan’s civil forfeiture law, which allows police to seize and keep assets of people who are suspected of criminal activity even if they’re never charged or convicted.

The bills would make it easier for people to recover assets such as homes, cars, or bank accounts.

“What we hope to do with this package is to assure that a crime has been committed and that we are not taking property away from innocent citizens,” said state Sen. Rick Jones, R-Eaton Rapids.

Advocates for reforming forfeiture laws say the bills are good first step, but Michigan should adopt a standard that requires the owner to be convicted of a crime before assets can be permanently claimed by authorities.          

“Ultimately, we’d like to see Michigan push this process post-conviction to ensure that innocent property owners are never entangled in this process, and never have their property forfeited, but this is an excellent first step,” said Holly Harris with the national group Fix Forfeiture.

The bills headed to the governor’s desk would also require police agencies to report how much money they make off forfeitures.  

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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