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Troy MI License Restoration Blog

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Michigan’s Controversial Asset Forfeiture Laws

Is it true that Michigan can seize personal property even if the owner is only a suspect in an alleged crime (not necessarily convicted)? 


Civil asset forfeiture is one of the many tools used by law enforcement officials to essentially strip alleged offenders of the fruits of their labor. Historically, this measure was implemented to ensure drug dealers, scam artists, and others reaping significant criminal profits were not able to use these ill-gotten gains to either make bail or abscond. However, several bi-partisan advocacy groups have found it necessary to place restraints on this practice, citing important constitutional due process rights. In a national “Fix Forfeiture” campaign, Michigan (along with two other states) has been targeted as one of the top jurisdictions with wildly incongruent forfeiture laws – often resulting in unnecessary financial hardship for families ultimately deemed innocent of the alleged crimes. 

Civil forfeiture in Michigan

According to the Institute for Justice, Michigan law enforcement retained nearly $19 million in asset forfeiture per year from 2001-2008. These figures include both currency and personal property, and may be seized upon a showing that it is more likely than not that the property was obtained illegally – a standard known as the “preponderance of the evidence.” This evidence standard is actually much lower than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard required to actually convict someone of a crime, so it stands to reason that Michiganders are being forced to relinquish property despite never having actually committed a crime. 

However, unlike other states with asset forfeiture laws, Michigan shifts its burden of proof to the state prosecutor to prove that the assets were likely obtained through illegal means. In other states, it becomes the defendant’s responsibility to prove the assets were not obtained illegally, so Michiganders fortunately have a small advantage within the realm of burden of proof. Nonetheless, groups like Fix Forfeiture believe it is time for a change, and have set out to lobby lawmakers to amend these forfeiture laws to require an actual conviction first. 

If you are concerned about civil asset forfeiture or believe you may be unlawfully targeted, do not hesitate to contact Flint and Troy criminal defense attorney Martin T. Lievois today.  Contact him in Troy at 248-419-0566 or in Flint at 810-250-4550 today. 

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