Civil Forfeiture

Forfeiture is a practice by which law enforcement transfers assets – cash, vehicles, homes, etc. – from private citizens to the government. Criminal forfeiture occurs after the conviction of a person and is widely-accepted as legitimate.

The problem is with civil forfeiture.

Civil forfeiture occurs outside of the criminal justice system and does not require a conviction of a crime. This has led to instances of abuse in Michigan, which has among the lowest-rated forfeiture laws in the United States. The Mackinac Center believes property should only be transferred from citizens to the government after a criminal conviction is secured.

In October 2015, the Michigan Legislature passed a package of laws that raises the standard of evidence before the state can take possession of property – from “preponderance of evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence” – as well as mandates reporting requirements for how much property was forfeited, where it came from, and whether a person was charged with a crime.

In January 2016, Gov. Snyder signed a bill eliminating an upfront bond requirement. Citizens no longer have to pay 10 percent of the worth of their property in order to contest a seizure – which previously happened regardless of whether they were charged with a crime.

But the state needs to go further. Michigan legislators should join the 15 other states which require a criminal conviction before forfeiting property. Ultimately, the state should ban civil forfeiture altogether – and replace it with criminal forfeiture. In states like New Mexico and Nebraska, which have eliminated civil forfeiture, a court decides if a person is guilty of a crime and then determines what assets were gained from crime before ultimately forfeiting property over to the government.


Property Seized, Money Taken - No Charges Filed

Republican and Democrat Against Forfeiture

Mackinac Center Civil Asset Forfeiture Event

Civil Asset Forfeiture:
An Un-American Practice

Civil Asset Forfeiture:
The Police Perspective


Bill Bringing State Closer To Ending Asset Forfeiture Abuse Advances in Michigan

The Michigan House Judiciary Committee voted 8-1 with one member voting present on Tuesday to advance to the full House the main bill of a ... more

Former State Trooper: Cops, Prosecutors Misuse Problematic Asset Forfeiture Law

The Michigan State Police detective who helped train the state police in how to conduct civil asset forfeiture says the police are misusing it.... more

Debate Heated On Ending Police Keeping Seized Property With No Conviction

In Michigan, more than 500 people lost property in 2016 with no criminal charges.... more

Michigan Man Cleared of Wrongdoing, Still Fighting Civil Forfeiture Years Later

Crime doesn’t pay, but being innocent in the wrong place can cost you big time under Michigan’s civil forfeiture laws.... more

No Arrest — But Cops Took And Kept His $2,035 Anyway

Your assets are presumed guilty in Michigan; legislation would change that.... more

Police Set Up Crime, Entrap College Student’s Cellphone and $100

Though none were criminally charged, 523 in Michigan still lost property forfeited to police last year.... more

1 In 10 People Who Had Property Forfeited To Police Were Not Charged With A Crime

Ten percent of the people in Michigan who had some property seized by and then forfeited to the police in 2016 were not charged with a crime.... more

Now People Won't Have to Pay a Bond to Recover Their Stuff from Police

Governor signs bill to eliminate 10 percent civil forfeiture fee ... more

Police Seize Car, Drive 56,000 Miles, Sell It Without Charging Owners With a Crime

Michigan forfeiture laws allow assets to be turned over without a conviction ... more

Moving Forward on Forfeiture Reform

Forfeiture is the process of transferring of property or cash from citizens to the government and is done at the ... more

Local Ballot Initiatives Target Police, Prosecutors Confiscating Property

Local measures would require conviction for asset forfeiture ... more

Property Seized, Money Taken – But No Crime

Wladyslaw “Wally” Kowalski is a Ph.D. design engineer who lives in Van Buren County. In September, Kowalski came home to ... more

Different Parties, Same Conclusion on Civil Asset Forfeitures: Reform It

With the conclusion of the 2013-2014 Legislature, the clock has run out on bills that would have required more disclosure ... more

The Government Incentive to Seize Property

On Wednesday, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy hosted a forum at the Capitol to discuss the state’s law on civil asset ... more

National Group Gives Michigan a ‘D’ for Forfeiture Laws

The national grassroots group Freedom Works, which has 6.9 million members and supports limited government, gives ... more

National Conservative Groups Push to End Civil Asset Forfeiture

A new article on the Heritage Foundation’s “Daily Signal” website highlights the problem with civil asset forfeiture, which is the ... more