When it comes to the Police & You here in Michigan, police are permitted under certain circumstances to seize property from an individual before a conviction or even a charge is brought against that individual. Many believe this impinges the due process rights afforded to individuals by the Constitution, and with good reason: The American legal system is built around the concept that every individual is innocent until proven guilty. Police should not be able to take an innocent person's property.
Now that the Legislature's new session has begun, lawmakers are focused on reforming the civil asset forfeiture process. The Michigan Senate started the new session off strong by passing a bill aimed at protecting your property rights. The bill would require a criminal conviction before police and prosecutors can forfeit that individual's property.
The bill would also require a prosecutor or attorney general to approve property seizures before law enforcement actually seizes it. Additionally, if you believe your property was wrongly seized, the bill would allow you to file a claim to get what is rightfully yours back.
While this all sounds great, the bill is not as broad as it seems: Police will still be able to seize property if they have probable cause. So, if you are acting suspicious, don't expect this new bill to save you. What this bill will do is prevent law enforcement from using or selling that property before obtaining a criminal conviction against the individual. Essentially, they will hold it until an individual is convicted, at which point they can do as they please with it.
The current civil asset forfeiture process in Michigan is problematic to say the least. Between the Police & You, you are at a disadvantage. Many believe that the current police practice of seizing a person's property without a conviction, and especially without a charge, is a due process violation. This bill aims to bring police practice in line with what the Constitution guarantees.
The bill now moves on to Michigan's House of Representatives. Thanks to bipartisan support, the prospects are promising, and your property will hopefully remain just that - your property.
If the police have taken your property under Michigan's asset forfeiture laws, do not delay in obtaining experienced representation. You will need someone familiar with civil asset forfeiture and criminal defense. At the Law Office of John Freeman, we are experienced in representing clients in both types of cases in state and federal court throughout Michigan. Call us. It could be the most important call you make.