Recently, Governor Rick Snyder signed into law a civil asset forfeiture reform that many are hailing as a fix. While this new law is a very small step in the right direction, more action is desperately needed to properly restore the Constitution and private property rights in our state.
Michigan Capitol Confidential reported on the new law and what impact it will have on the forfeiture process in Michigan:
Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation Jan. 3 that bans a cash bond requirement in civil asset forfeiture proceedings. Civil asset forfeiture is a legal proceeding that allows police and prosecutors to keep and sell seized property, in many cases even if the owner is never convicted or even charged with a crime…
The law lifts a requirement that a person whose property is seized as part of civil asset forfeiture pay a cash bond in order to challenge the seizure. Michigan law had allowed law enforcement to keep cash bonds, typically 10 percent of the value of property estimated to be worth $250 to $5,000.
While this should certainly not be seen as bad news, it continues a troubling process of incrementalism being used on the issue of civil asset forfeiture in the legislature. Progress is being made, but it is happening at a snail’s pace. There is no need to piddle around on the issue of civil asset forfeiture while people are being victimized everyday.
Ending bond requirements and the other incremental reform of increasing reporting standards are two small steps in the right direction, but it is not enough. These small half-measures can be dangerous because it makes people think the problem has been solved when it has not. This can lull the public back to sleep, and make true reform very difficult to achieve.
The reform to civil asset forfeiture is very simple and straight-forward. Any government official must be banned from seizing and forfeiting assets before the suspected criminal is convicted of a crime. In addition, money from forfeitures must be put in the general fund so that law enforcement is not incentivized monetarily to seize assets. Right now, we have a “wild west” atmosphere because of the war on drugs and civil asset forfeiture. It is deteriorating the rule of law, and must be stopped.
The good news is that the Michigan state legislature has promise. Rep. Gary Glenn (R-Midland) says he intends to file a bill this year that will be a full repeal of civil asset forfeiture, similar to what was passed in New Mexico back in 2015. Let’s hope that he lives up to his word! If that bill is introduced, we will have the latest updates on how to best support it at the Michigan Tenth Amendment Center.