Current Michigan law allows law enforcement agencies to seize property if an individual is suspected of using the property in relation to various crimes. Property that has been seized by law enforcement can then be sold or used by the agency without criminal charges or a conviction.
As lawmakers, it is our responsibility to ensure that private citizens’ rights are protected, especially if they are not convicted in a court of law. My colleagues and I have heard countless stories from individuals who have lost property through the civil asset forfeiture process. These laws are not put in place to allow government agencies to unfairly take property from its citizens, and this legislation will ensure the correct and ethical use of the process.
House Bills 4499 and 4505 raise the burden of proof standard on the governmental agency to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the property to be forfeited was used in connection to the illicit activity. Notice of forfeit must be given to the individual or published in a newspaper to allow for a claim to be made for the property.
House Bills 4500, 4503, 4504, 4506 and 4507 include reporting requirements for law enforcement agencies to record seized and forfeited property, in addition to any resulting revenue. Revenue received from forfeitures is commonly used to supplement agency budgets.
The package also ensures that property can still be seized at the beginning of law enforcement’s involvement, thus prohibiting culprits from moving or hiding assets during an investigation.
These clarified guidelines will allow our state’s law enforcement agencies to effectively safeguard our communities and investigate criminal activity, while also ensuring the constitutional rights and freedoms of Michigan’s citizens are protected.
I proudly supported this legislation as it unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. The package now awaits a vote on the Senate floor.