Michigan Needs To Stop Charging Residents To Get Their Property Back

Mackinac Center analyst authors op-ed in Detroit Free Press

An op-ed published in the Detroit Free Press that is co-authored by a Mackinac Center analyst highlights the need for civil asset forfeiture reform in Michigan.

Michigan is one of the few states in the country that not only allows law enforcement to seize property from people who have not been charged with a crime, but requires the owner to pay between $250 and $5,000 to try to get it back. Such is the focus of the op-ed written by Mackinac Center Policy Analyst Jarrett Skorup and Nick Sibilla, a communications associate at the Institute for Justice.

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As the authors explain:

Under Michigan law, if your property is seized and valued less than $50,000, you must post a bond worth 10% of the property’s value to start the process of having it returned to you. But if you fail to post that bond within 20 days of the property being seized, it is automatically forfeited to the state.

House Bill 4629 — which passed a vote in the House and is awaiting hearing in Senate Judiciary Committee — would eliminate the bonding requirement for drug-related forfeiture cases and put an end to charging people who are unsuccessful in retrieving their property. Skorup and Sibilla noted Michigan is taking positive steps to reform its civil asset forfeiture laws on the books, but said more work remains:

Michiganders can still lose their property even if they have never been convicted in criminal court. Meanwhile, state law provides a perverse incentive to seize property and “police for profit.” After a property has been forfeited, police and prosecutors can keep up to 100% of the proceeds. According to a recent report by the Institute for Justice and data from the Michigan State Police, from 2001 to 2014, Michigan agencies collected more than $258 million in forfeiture proceeds under state law.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, and has been supported by both the Mackinac Center and the ACLU.

Read the full op-ed in the Detroit Free Press

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