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Civil asset forfeiture bill moves out of Senate committee

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Some lawmakers in Lansing want to finish what they started last year when it comes to police taking property.

A state Senate committee approved Senate Bill 2 Thursday, which changes the state’s civil asset forfeiture law. The bill would still allow law enforcement to take property possibly involved in a crime, but they wouldn’t be allowed to permanently keep it until there’s a criminal conviction or the person gives up their ownership. This applies if the value of the property or money is less than $50,000.  

Senator Pete Lucido (R-Shelby Township) is a bill sponsor who passed a similar bill while he was a representative in the state House last session, but it never made it out of the Senate. He said this bill is a compromise that is good for police and citizens.

“This prevents nothing that the police can’t do already,” Lucido said. “What it does do, though: it ensures the public, whose property rights that they have, will never be violated.”

But some law enforcement members are not on board with proposed changes to the state civil asset forfeiture law.

Robert Stevenson, executive director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, said criminals will find a way around the $50,000 limit.

“When you set a dollar amount, all you’re doing is telling the drug dealers, you need to transport your money in less than $50,000.”

Stevenson says there are already safeguards in the law. Those include requiring police to have probable cause before they can take property or money, and law enforcement must prove to a judge by clear and convincing evidence that the property was part of a crime before they can keep it.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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