Michigan Police Report Large Seizure Numbers While Awaiting Reform

Michigan police seized $23.9 million from drug crime suspects in 2014 through civil asset forfeiture.

This figure comes from a state report requesting data from all 686 law enforcement agencies in Michigan, but the number is likely smaller than the actual total, The Detroit News reports.

Civil asset forfeiture is a practice where police can seize your property and keep it even if they don’t convict or charge you with a crime. Then, you must go through the difficult, and often unsuccessful process to get your property–whether it’s a vehicle, cash or your home–back from the police.

According to the report, in 2014 the agencies kept about $20 million of the assets seized. The seizure number is about the same as totals from previous years.

These numbers may be artificially low, though, because 56 law enforcement agencies did not respond to the data request. Besides those, 332 agencies reported some level of asset forfeiture and 298 said they had no asset forfeiture.

Eighty-one percent of the cases were handled via administrative forfeiture, which means the people involved never got a court hearing before a judge with the right to an attorney. They dealt with bureaucrats, not the court system.

This report comes at a critical time for Michigan. The Michigan legislature has passed modest forfeiture reforms and awaits Gov. Rick Snyder’s signature on the bill.

The Michigan bill would create more accountability and reporting for police but does little to change the mechanisms of civil asset forfeiture in the state, particularly that police can keep the proceeds and that they don’t need to charge you with a crime.

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