Lansing, Mich. — On Wednesday, state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker proudly supported a package of bills to reform Michigan’s civil asset forfeiture laws.
Michigan’s current laws allow for the seizure of property by law enforcement agencies if an individual is suspected of using the property in relation to various crimes. Property forfeited can then be sold or used by the agency without regard to conviction. These practices have recently come under national scrutiny.
“As lawmakers, it is our responsibility to ensure that private citizen’s rights are protected,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “I have heard far too many stories of individuals who are not charged or convicted of crimes losing property through the civil asset forfeiture process. This legislation is about ensuring ethical use of the process.”
The legislative package raises the minimum standard by which property can be seized through the requirement that there is clear and convincing evidence the property was used in connection to the illicit activity. Notice of forfeit must be given to the individual or published in a newspaper 28 days following the seizure of the asset to allow for a claim to be made for the property.
The reforms also include reporting requirements for law enforcement agencies to record seized and forfeited property, in addition to any resulting revenue.
“Unnecessary government intervention has been an issue time and time again,” Schuitmaker said. “I am confident that these clear guidelines will allow our law enforcement partners to effectively safeguard our communities, while also ensuring our constitutional rights and freedoms are protected.”
House Bills 4499, 4500, and 4503-4507 provide 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.
The bills were passed unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee and are now under consideration on the Senate floor.