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Governor signs bill to require criminal conviction before assets are seized

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Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed a new law that says police departments cannot keep assets seized as part of an investigation unless the owner is convicted of a crime.

Prosecutors have used civil actions to seize assets as part of a strategy to combat drug dealing. But critics says the seizures violate due process rights.

Governor Whitmer is a former county prosecutor who says it was a solution that became a problem.

“I know that many of our citizens have not been treated fairly, or offered the protections that they deserve, and that changes today,” says Whitmer.

Attorney General Dana Nessel is a former assistant prosecutor. She supports the changes, and says seizing the assets of people who were suspected but never convicted of a crime is unfair.

“And, quite honestly, created bad relationships between law enforcement and the communities that they served, and I think those injustices will now be made right.”

Republican state Senator Pete Lucido was a sponsor of the legislation.

“I’ll say it over and over again," he says, "no one should profit from criminal activity, but to take somebody’s goods, and deprive them before there’s been due process delivered is an injustice to the system.”

The bills were adopted by the Legislature with bipartisan support. The protections do not apply in cases where police seize more than $50,000 cash from a suspected criminal.

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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