Police Seized Property of Close to 1,000 People in Michigan—Without Ever Convicting Them of Crimes

Asset forfeiturePhotographerlondon / Dreamstime.comClose to 1,000 people in Michigan had their property seized by police or government officials last year even though they were neither convicted nor sometimes even charged with committing a crime.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that we have this information at all. In 2015 Michigan passed legislation that mandated local law enforcement agencies report more information to the state about the extent of their seizures. The Department of State Police just released its first report that encompassed all agencies for a full calendar year.

Law enforcement agencies across the state seized more than $13 million in cash and property in 2017. And while State Police Director Kriste Etue claims in the report’s introduction that all those seized assets were “amassed by drug traffickers,” that’s not really what the numbers show.

Tom Gantert, managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential, which is published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, drilled down into the report and noted that 956 people who had their money or property seized last year were not convicted of a crime. Of those, 736 people were not even charged with a crime for which property forfeiture was permitted. And yet such forfeiture happened, quite frequently. To put it in larger context, it happened to 14 percent of the people who had their stuff taken.

Police and prosecutors are able to essentially legally steal people’s property under the process of civil asset forfeiture. Under “civil” forfeiture, criminal convictions are not necessary. Instead, police and prosecutors basically accuse the property itself of being connected to a crime. Using lower evidentiary thresholds and complicated bureaucratic and administrative procedures, civil forfeiture subverts the typical legal process by forcing citizens to prove themselves and their property innocent of crimes rather than forcing prosecutors to prove guilt.

Thus citizens can have their stuff taken by the government without being first convicted. There’s been a growing backlash to

You can read the rest of this article at: https://reason.com/blog/2018/07/11/police-seized-property-of-close-to-1000