civil forfeiture | Michigan Radio

civil 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.

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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.

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Under Michigan's civil forfeiture laws, people can have their property and money forfeited to police without ever being convicted of breaking the law, or, in some instances, even charged with a crime.

State lawmakers are now considering a bill that would tighten up our state's loose civil forfeiture laws.

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People across Michigan have seen their cars, their TVs, their kids’ iPads, even their homes seized by police, often despite never having been charged with or convicted of a crime.

It’s called “civil asset forfeiture,” and it means that state or federal agents can seize your property if they so much as suspect that it has been involved in criminal activity.

The push against civil asset forfeiture is growing.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan would give police less freedom to seize and sell property under bills making their way through the state Legislature.

The state House approved the bills on Thursday with wide bipartisan support.

Under the legislation, police would have to report more information about the property they seize through Michigan’s civil asset forfeiture laws.

Michigan State Police

The right-leaning Mackinac Center hosted a forum Wednesday featuring the ACLU and Democratic state representative Jeff Irwin.

“Maybe it’s a little strange to have someone like myself appear at a Mackinac Center event,” Irwin told the crowd gathered, “but I think it actually just speaks to the power of this argument.”


Michigan Congressman Tim Walberg has re-introduced a package of bills intended to restrain the powers of government authorities to seize assets from citizens.

Walberg says too often, police use forfeiture powers as a revenue stream, rather than a crime-fighting tool.