Unanimous Senate passes improvements to civil asset forfeiture legislation

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LANSING, Mich. — Citizens’ rights would be better protected under a package of bills approved by the state Senate Wednesday, with Sen. Mike Shirkey voting in support of the legislation.

Michigan is currently one of several states that allow law enforcement to use civil asset forfeiture to lawfully seize property, sometimes even freezing bank accounts, without officially charging a person with a crime.

The devoted officers who daily serve agree that although the ability to seize property can be a useful part of investigations, it is also important to establish safeguards against the abuse of this practice.

House Bills 4499, 4500, 4503, 4504, 4505, 4506, and 4507 would increase transparency and raise the standard for seizure so that evidence must be “clear and convincing” before action is taken. These amending measures would better define the legal abilities of law enforcement agencies while protecting citizens’ rights.

In May, Shirkey hosted an event at the Capitol involving a Mackinac Center panel discussion examining the way the law is currently used. At this well-attended event, participants heard why improvements in civil asset forfeiture laws will benefit all involved, including agencies and individuals.

“Our office has been contacted often on this issue this year, and there is a lot of confusion as to what the law allows and when it might be getting abused,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “We are very grateful to law enforcement individuals for their dedicated protection and service, and they agree that this is an area where there needs to be a zero level of tolerance for abuse and there should be processes in place to negate any bad actors.”

The bills will be sent to the governor, who is expected to sign them into law soon.