Governor signs civil asset forfeiture bill

Published: May. 9, 2019 at 11:43 AM EDT
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Governor Whitmer signed into law bills that will reform the state's civil asset forfeiture laws.

“I’m proud that Michigan is joining several other states in revising our civil asset forfeiture laws to increase property protections for citizens,” Whitmer said. “These bills will ensure due process and strengthen the integrity of our justice system by requiring a criminal conviction before forfeiture proceedings can begin.”

In the past, police departments could seize a person's property if they believed the items in question were at all connected to a crime.

This would happen even if the owner wasn't charged with a crime.

Under the new reform law, seizing of property can only happen after a conviction or guilty plea from the owner.

And, the police would have to show that the property was indeed connected to the crime.

Breakdowns of the two bills signed:

Senate Bill 2 prohibits civil asset forfeitures for crimes involving controlled substances unless there is a conviction or plea agreement, no one claims the property, or the property owner relinquishes the property that was seized. The bill will apply to forfeiture proceedings pending on, or initiated on or after, January 1, 2020. It would require the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) to develop and make available a form to relinquish a property right and also a form for a property owner to file a written objection regarding forfeiture of property seized without a warrant.

House Bill 4001 prohibits civil asset forfeitures for crimes involving controlled substances unless a criminal proceeding is completed and the defendant is convicted or pleads guilty. It specifies situations in which a forfeiture proceeding could go forward without a criminal conviction or guilty plea, such as when no one claims the property or the defendant cannot be located and arrested. House Bill 4002 requires the government to notify an individual if their property has been seized and places the burden on the government to prove that this forfeiture is justified. If it is not, the property must be returned to the owner within 14 days.

(Senate Bill 2 and House Bills 4001 and 4002, sponsored by Senator Peter Lucido (SD 8) and Representatives Jason Wentworth (HD 97) and David LaGrand (HD 75), will take effect 90 days after its enactment.)

Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield today released the following statement upon civil asset forfeiture reforms being signed into law:

“In America, you are innocent until proven guilty. That phrase means something. It is a strong, consistent, and reliable foundation for our justice system and something that sets our nation apart from many others around the world. It is an ideal we should fight hard to uphold and strengthen, and it is something the people who sent us to the Capitol expect us to fix.

“That is why civil asset forfeiture reform was the first bill we introduced this year in the state House and why it is now one of the first priorities done and signed into law.”

Watch signing below.
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Civil Asset Forfeiture Bill Signing

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Posted by WILX News 10 on Thursday, May 9, 2019