civil asset forfeiture | Michigan Radio

civil asset forfeiture

A new study says civil asset forfeiture programs don't help police fight crime. The Institute for Justice says money police departments raise from asset seizures don't lead to less drug use or more solved crimes. The libertarian group also found when the economy weakens, police seize more property.

"Specifically, the study found, for every one percent increase in unemployment there's a nine percent increase in forfeiture," said Lee McGrath, an attorney for the Institute of Justice.

Andy / Flickr

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.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Some members of law enforcement hope Governor Gretchen Whitmer vetoes legislation headed for her desk.

The Legislature passed bills to change the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws on Thursday. The bills would require a criminal conviction before law enforcement can keep a person’s property worth less than $50,000. Law enforcement only needs probable cause in order to take it.

Tyson Timbs won his Supreme Court case in February, but he still doesn't have his Land Rover.

"I want my truck back. I've always wanted it back," says Timbs, whose Land Rover was seized by police in Indiana. They took it after he was arrested for selling a small amount of heroin to undercover cops. He served a period of house arrest and probation for the drug crime — punishments he accepted.

But Timbs never accepted that police were entitled to his $42,000 vehicle, which he'd bought with proceeds from an insurance settlement.

Catherine Shaffer

In Michigan, police can seize your property if they believe it’s involved in a crime. And they can auction it off before you’re convicted of anything. Actually, before you’re even charged with a crime.

pile of one dollar bills
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Civil asset forfeiture. Court fines and fees. Property tax foreclosure laws.

All are things local governments in Michigan use to operate and fund themselves. And all could be changed by a new U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

The case had to do with whether police in Indiana could seize a man’s car after he was charged with selling heroin.

Even though the man was convicted, the court ruled the seizure was illegal because the car was worth many times more than the maximum fine for the crime. In other words, it was an excessive fine or fee—the kind prohibited by the Constitution’s 8th Amendment.

State Senate passes bill on civil asset forfeiture

Feb 13, 2019
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The state Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would make major changes to civil asset forfeitures. That's when police are allowed to take property from people.

State Senator Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Township) sponsored the bill. He says he thinks this bill will have the biggest impact on low-income people who forfeit property in exchange for better plea deals. 

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.  

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

This week, a state Senate committee will take up legislation to put limits on police seizures of private property.

Under current law, police agencies in Michigan can take property from criminal suspects, even if they are never convicted of a crime.    

There’s legislation in both the Michigan House and Senate that would require a conviction to seize property, including cars and other valuables worth less than $50,000.

Majd Abdulghani
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Today on Stateside, the newly-appointed chair of the House Appropriations Committee discusses today's Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference and how it will affect the state budget. Plus, a Michigan brewer on how the partial government shutdown is affecting his business.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

This year, state lawmakers will try to rein in Michigan’s civil asset forfeiture law.

Under current law, Michigan police may seize cash, cars or other property from people suspected of crimes, even if they’re never convicted of committing a crime.

State House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) is backing legislation that would require a conviction to forfeit property worth up to $50,000.

Daniel / FLICKR -

Today, the State House Judiciary Committee continues its review of legislation that would change Michigan's civil asset forfeiture laws.

Current law allows police officers to take and keep property from people even when they have not been charged or convicted of a crime.

Among other things, the legislation would require a criminal conviction before police can seize property under the civil asset forfeiture process. Supporters of this reform, like the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the ACLU of Michigan, say it protects people's property rights and civil liberties.

A Michigan State Police file photo.
Michigan State Police

Last year, Michigan tightened requirements for civil asset forfeiture.

That's the law that allows the government to seize property when someone is accused of a crime even if they're not convicted.

This started as part of the war against drugs. It's become a lucrative tool for cash-strapped police departments and prosecutors. 

Laws passed last year require more transparency, but do not abolish civil asset forfeiture. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

At a meeting in Port Huron yesterday, targets of law enforcement drug task forces said those officers are abusing their power in Michigan.

Speaker after speaker claimed the raids by heavily armed police officers on their homes have resulted in extensive damage and scared their children.  During the raids, they claim officers tried to intimidate them.