Seizing citizen assets without conviction could change in Michigan by tightening up the law

Civil asset forfeiture is controversial in that assets can be taken from citizens by law enforcement with no conviction.

State House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), however, is seeking to tighten this law with legislation that would require a conviction to forfeit property up to $50,000, according to Michigan Radio.

State Attorney General Dana Nessel reportedly supports the reforms, though Michigan Radio said similar legislation died last year. There have been reforms in the past. In 2015, the process was made more transparent.

According to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, there’s a difference between seizure and forfeiture. According to a June 2018 article, “The former can be done based on probable cause, while the latter is the actual transfer of ownership of the property.”

Holly Police Chief Michael Story said civil asset forfeiture has been used sparingly in the past, mostly for drug-related activities. “Our seizures are few, and all investigations/arrests don’t lead to seizure,” he said. “You have to prove they are ill-gotten by illegitimate sales of narcotics.”