Unanimous Forfeiture Vote Brings Greater Transparency and Accountability

'These bills are a great first step…'

Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015

Contact: Anne Schieber 989-430-6131

MIDLAND – The Mackinac Center for Public Policy applauds the Michigan Legislature for passing a package of bills that establishes transparency requirements for forfeited property and raises the standard of evidence before law enforcement can transfer assets to the government.

“The state should not be able to take ownership of someone’s property unless they have been convicted of a crime through the criminal system,” said Jarrett Skorup, a policy analyst and co-author of a recent report on forfeiture in Michigan. “These bills are a great first step towards improving Michigan’s forfeiture regime, but to fully protect Michigan residents, the state should eliminate civil forfeiture altogether.”

The Mackinac Center report, “Civil Forfeiture in Michigan: A Review and Recommendations for Reforms,” makes three main recommendations: Increase transparency reporting requirements for property that is forfeited (solved by this legislation); reduce “policing for profit” by redirecting forfeited proceeds away from local law enforcement agencies and toward general government funds; and eliminate civil forfeiture and process people and their property only through the criminal system.

The seven bill package, which was passed unanimously in the state Senate today and overwhelmingly in the state House previously, include:

Bills 4500, 4503, 4504, 4506 and 4507 would change disclosure rules, requiring local law enforcement to file detailed annual reports to the state when property is forfeited noting if a person was charged or convicted of a crime, the value of the assets, a description of the property, arrangements between local, state and federal agencies, and more. This information would be compiled by the state police and posted online.

Bills 4499 and 4505 would raise the standard of evidence needed to forfeit property. Law enforcement would need to demonstrate that the property was a tool or fruit of a crime by a “clear and convincing” standard up from the current “preponderance of the evidence” standard. Neither is as high as the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard required for criminal convictions.

For more information about civil forfeiture visit http://www.mackinac.org/forfeiture. The full report can be downloaded at http://www.mackinac.org/archives/2015/s2015-05.pdf.

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