The Mackinac Center for Public Policy and ACLU of Michigan applaud the state’s new law protecting the rights of citizens facing civil forfeiture.
The Michigan House and Senate passed House Bill 4629, and Gov. Snyder signed it this week. The law eliminates a bond requirement for property seized by law enforcement, which required those whose property was seized by the police to pay 10 percent of the value of their property just to challenge the forfeiture in court. Michigan was one of only five states with that type of requirement.
“With this measure, lawmakers have given Michigan residents a critical tool to protect themselves and their property against illegal searches and seizures,” said Dan Korobkin, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU of Michigan. “While we’re pleased with this important step, we urge Michigan lawmakers to build on this momentum by continuing to champion sensible, effective and humane criminal justice reform.”
This new law follows a package of bills from 2015 that raised the standard of evidence before assets could be forfeited and established broad transparency requirements. But the groups urged state legislators to go further.
“This new law will further protect the constitutional rights of citizens,” said Jarrett Skorup, a policy analyst at the Mackinac Center. “But Michigan needs to do more. Twelve states require law enforcement to get a criminal conviction before forfeiting property and two – New Mexico and Nebraska – have banned civil forfeiture altogether.”
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Peter Lucido, who was also a co-sponsor of the previous package of reforms.
"We applaud Rep. Lucido for his ongoing commitment to protecting the property rights of Michigan residents through this next step in the forfeiture reform process," Holly Harris, the executive director of the U.S. Justice Action Network. "Because of his leadership, we are one step closer to ensuring the government cannot take property from innocent citizens."
The Mackinac Center and the ACLU of Michigan co-sponsored a report on forfeiture in Michigan last year entitled “Civil Forfeiture in Michigan: A Review and Recommendations for Reforms.” The report examines how forfeiture works in Michigan and recommends ending civil forfeiture and only transferring assets to the state after a criminal conviction.