As bills to reform civil asset forfeiture work through the Michigan Legislature, the Mackinac Center has voiced strong support, both for the reforms, and for going further by eliminating of forfeiture altogether.
Jarrett Skorup, a policy analyst at the Mackinac Center and author of the study "Civil Forfeiture," co-authored an op-ed with Jorge Marin of Americans for Tax Reform on the benefits of civil forfeiture reform and what the political right should support major changes. That op-ed was recently published in MLive:
There are two main types of forfeiture: Criminal and civil. When used correctly, criminal forfeiture is an important tool for law enforcement. If police arrest and convict a drug dealer who has been unemployed for a decade, but owns two mansions and a Cadillac Escalade, the forfeiture procedure allows that property to be transferred to the government for compensating victims, fighting crime, and other uses. Nobody has a right to keep property gained through crime – the "fruit of a poisoned tree." But criminal forfeiture happens only after a person has been convicted of a crime.
Civil forfeiture is different and needs to be reformed, or better, eliminated. This process allows law enforcement to seize and forfeit someone's property even if they have not been charged, much less convicted, of a crime. In Michigan, which civil libertarian groups rate as having among the worst forfeiture laws in the nation, this practice is widespread. Dozens of examples have popped up over the years, and some are particularly egregious.
The full op-ed is available at MLive's website.
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