Michigan Must Stop Keeping Peoples’ Property Without Conviction

Skorup discusses civil forfeiture on Michigan Radio

Michigan lawmakers took some important steps last year to reform Michigan’s civil forfeiture laws, but there’s still plenty of work to be done.

Mackinac Center Policy Analyst Jarrett Skorup spoke with Lester Graham on Michigan Radio’s Stateside program about the practice of civil asset forfeiture. Under this practice, law enforcement may seize private citizens’ property, regardless of whether or not that person has been convicted of or even charged with a crime.

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The problem in Michigan and around the country is this isn’t just done in the criminal realm, it’s done in the civil realm, which is why it’s called civil forfeiture. … When assets are seized and go through the civil system, it can happen before anybody is charged with or in many cases even accused of a crime. So the government is able to take people’s property even though they might actually not have done anything wrong.

While Michigan has recently added transparency and reporting requirements to the process, Skorup said civil asset forfeiture should be done away with altogether.

If the police want to take ownership of somebody’s property, they should have to prove and convict them of a crime. Michigan has the worst of a couple different worlds here because the money goes back to the department that initially seized people’s assets, so you have this incentive process set up and it’s been admitted by law enforcement. This is used to pad their budgets and that’s not how a criminal justice system should work.

Skorup said property should only be seized if a person is convicted of a crime and a judge and jury determine that property was connected to that crime.

Listen to the full interview at Michigan Radio here.

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