Civil Asset Forfeiture

Michigan Police Will Find It a Little Bit Harder to Seize and Keep People's Stuff

Governor approves modest reforms to asset forfeiture laws.


If "Cops" has taught us anything, driving without a shirt on is proof of criminal activity.
Credit: Photographerlondon |

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has approved and signed a pack of bills intended to restrain law enforcement asset forfeiture and make it more transparent to the public how much money and assets police are keeping for themselves through the process.

Civil asset forfeiture is the process through which law enforcement agencies grab money and property they claim are connected to a crime, seize it, and keep it for themselves. The word "civil" is relevant because often asset forfeiture is completely separated from the criminal justice process. Police and prosecutors don't even have to prove somebody is guilty of a crime in this seizure process. Instead, those faced with losing their property have to navigate a complicated bureaucratic process (where they are not provided a lawyer if they are poor, because again, "civil") to prove that their property is "innocent" of any connections to criminal activity.

Last year Michigan law enforcement agencies raked in at least $24 million in assets through forfeiture, the vast majority of which took place through this civil process.

Certainly civil forfeiture will unfortunately continue under these newly passed reforms, though it will be a little bit harder. The new rules increase the burden of proof threshold for police to seize property. It used to be the lowest possible legal threshold: a simple "preponderance of evidence" showing guilt. The threshold has been bumped up to "clear and convincing" evidence. It's still not as good as the legal threshold of proving somebody is actually guilty of a crime, but maybe it will prevent drug war-fueled asset forfeiture efforts where police insist travelers carrying cash are dealing drugs even when no drugs are found. The new laws also require law enforcement agencies to provide annual reports detailing the monetary value of their seizures. Currently such reporting is not mandated, and the $24 million mentioned previously may actually be an understatement.

Read more from the Detroit Free Press here.

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  1. The threshold has been bumped up to “clear and convincing” evidence.

    Clear and convincing to whom in this case?

    1. He’s black, has a nice car? I’m convinced. Take that shit.

    2. The new rules increase the burden of proof threshold for police to seize property.

      One of the problems with asset forfeiture is that the former owner has to bring suit to get it back, and has the burden of proof of showing that its legit.

      Do these bills change that?

      1. And has to spend considerable money to do so.

  2. If you strike a king, you strike to kill. “Modest” measures to rein in the thievery is just going to piss them off and make them work that much harder to use every trick in the book and every excuse they can to fuck with as many people as possible – because the money doesn’t just feed the cop beast, it feeds the city hall beast. I predict a year or two from now you can go look at the dollar figures and you’re going to see that asset forfeitures have increased. As Hillary would say, there’s just too much money in it to make it illegal.

    1. Now, now, if the Fabians can be satisfied with the ratchet clicking slowly to tighten the grip on freedom, can’t we celebrate when the ratchet moves a little bit the other way for once?

      1. It remains to be seen if the ratchet actually moved, since the real problem is recovering the property once it is seized. I don’t know if this bill changes the requirement that the owner prove the property is innocent.

  3. The new laws also require law enforcement agencies to provide annual reports detailing the monetary value of their seizures.

    Will there be penalties if they don’t provide a report? No? Then why bother?

    1. Well in theory it’s a law that agencies are required to follow, so if they don’t the Michigan Attorney General can bring a lawsuit against agencies that fail to report.

      1. And how likely is that to happen?

      2. A law with no penalties is merely a suggestion.

          1. And just as effective.

        1. Even laws with penalties require people who are wiling to enforce them.

          1. You mean like doing official business on personal email?

        2. As Al Gore taught us, if ” there is no controlling legal authority” no one could hold him accountable for his crime.

  4. OT:

    Ladies and gentlemen, i think I’ve found peak derp. They said it couldn’t be done. I think it’s been done. This is in response to an editorial comment defending freedom of speech, even if it hurts someone’s feelings:

    adivkumar browntown ? 2 days ago
    Let’s try a different example:

    Stabbing people.

    It’s not harmful to the person who DOES the stabbing, only the person who gets stabbed. “You are free to go around saying that something is harmful to you, but that doesn’t mean anything to anyone else but you.”
    Saying “I’m bleeding” is your right, but you can’t infringe on the rights of other people. Saying “I am bleeding, therefore stop stabbing me” is not your right. You can’t make other people comply.

    Enjoy your libertarian paradise, chum.

    1. Hmm I dunno, but I think peak derp requires more than just equating psychological and physical harm. That’s been done.

    2. I’m struggling with a libertarian paradise where I don’t have free speech, as in “Saying ‘X’ is not your right.

    3. Probably one of those retards that equates self defense with vigilante justice.

      1. And objecting to someone stabbing you with hate speech.

  5. Michigan Police Will Find It a Little Bit Harder to Seize and Keep People’s Stuff

    Looters find a way.

    1. They’ll just kill the plaintiff(s) before stealing seizing their assets, ending the civil suits. Problem solved..

      1. “When I told him that we would be seizing his car, the perpetrator objected verbally. His use of profanity made me feel threatened and in fear of my life, so I shot him in the face 14 times, as I have been trained to do.”

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