Michigan raises standard for seizing property under forfeiture laws

Under a seven-bill legislative package recently signed into law, Michigan is changing its laws on civil asset forfeiture, a move that proponents say will better protect citizens’ civil liberties and private property rights. According to the Detroit Free Press, lawmakers have raised the standard for when property can be seized through civil forfeiture. The standard had been a “preponderance of the evidence”; it is now “clear and convincing.”

Michigan’s law enforcement agencies will also be required to submit an annual report on their forfeiture activities.

Forfeiture laws allow money or property to be confiscated if police and prosecutors suspect that it is tied to criminal activity. But in Michigan and other states, civil-liberties groups have raised concerns that state laws make it too easy for individuals’ property to be taken.
According to the Institute for Justice, most Midwestern states use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard. However, for property to be seized in Nebraska, law enforcement must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the property is tied to a crime. In Indiana and Wisconsin, law enforcement must transfer its proceeds from a forfeiture to schools.
Stateline Midwest: November 20153.16 MB