Civil asset forfeiture reform protects property rights, civil liberties
LANSING, Mich. – Innocent Michigan citizens won’t be subject to having their property confiscated as part of broad law enforcement investigation sweeps thanks to new laws Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, helped introduce and Gov. Rick Snyder signed Tuesday.
The governor signed Rep. Glenn’s House Bill 4499 into Public Act 153 of 2015, which requires police to have “clear and convincing” evidence that a person’s property was involved in criminal activity before seizing it.
“I’m proud that my first signed law is to protect the property rights and civil liberties of Michigan residents,” Rep. Glenn said. “Law enforcement personnel and the courts need to be able to do their jobs to keep the public safe, however the public has to be safe from unfair, over-zealous and over-reaching enforcement practices, too.”
Rep. Glenn’s PA 153 requires prosecutors to have “clear and convincing evidence” that property was used in creating criminal public nuisances such as prostitution, dogfighting or storage of explosives.
Prosecutors under current law are only required to provide a “preponderance of the evidence” before seizing personal property such as cash, cars, homes and other items during police raids, which can then be auctioned off to supplement law enforcement budgets.
In the worst cases of civil asset forfeiture abuse, private property has been seized and kept by government officials even when the owner is never even charged with a crime, much less prosecuted or convicted.
Glenn’s new law is part of a seven-bill package of reform legislation, now PAs 148-154 of 2015, that increases transparency in Michigan’s civil asset forfeiture system and protects innocent citizens from indiscriminate police seizure of the property by imposing reporting requirements on law enforcement agencies and raising the level of evidence required for property seizure.
The new civil asset forfeiture reform laws are endorsed by Attorney General Bill Schuette and the Michigan Association of Police Organizations.