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New law to limit forfeiture after successful criminal defense

Civil forfeiture is one of the more controversial aspects of arrests or investigations. Recently, lawmakers in Michigan passed a bill 83-26 to tighten the rules on what property can be seized by police in relation to drug investigations. The law will ensure the property of those who are found innocent in their criminal defense cannot be held by law enforcement.

Under the new bill, seized property valued at $50,000 or less cannot be kept by police unless there is a conviction or plea agreement. Authorities may also keep property if no one claims it or it is relinquished by the owner. The law was passed in response to allegations that civil asset forfeiture has been overused by some police who, under previous laws, could use the seizures to generate profit without due process.

According to their own records, police in Michigan seized $15.2 million of assets in 2016. In 10 percent of these cases, those who were subject to seizures were never charged with a crime related to the apprehended item. Nonetheless, there has been some push back from the law enforcement community on aspects of the new bill.

Until House Bill 4158 is enacted, law enforcement in Michigan can legally seize property if they suspect it has been used or acquired due to drug crimes. When charges are not brought against the property owner or they are acquitted, the property is not automatically returned. Those facing criminal charges who are also dealing with asset forfeiture should speak to an attorney about their criminal defense, then follow up about possible civil claims for assets seized if applicable.

Source: mlive.com, "House votes to tighten law on civil asset forfeiture in drug cases", Emily Lawler, May 8, 2018

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