Today Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Senate Bill 2 and House Bills 4001 and 4002, which passed with nearly-unanimous support, to limit civil asset forfeiture for individuals who have not been convicted of a crime in order to increase property protections for citizens.
“I’m proud that Michigan is joining several other states in revising our civil asset forfeiture laws to increase property protections for citizens,” Whitmer said. “These bills will ensure due process and strengthen the integrity of our justice system by requiring a criminal conviction before forfeiture proceedings can begin.”
Senate Bill 2 prohibits civil asset forfeitures for crimes involving controlled substances unless there is a conviction or plea agreement, no one claims the property, or the property owner relinquishes the property that was seized.
The bill will apply to forfeiture proceedings pending on, or initiated on or after, January 1, 2020.
It would require the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) to develop and make available a form to relinquish a property right and also a form for a property owner to file a written objection regarding forfeiture of property seized without a warrant.
House Bill 4001 prohibits civil asset forfeitures for crimes involving controlled substances unless a criminal proceeding is completed and the defendant is convicted or pleads guilty.
It specifies situations in which a forfeiture proceeding could go forward without a criminal conviction or guilty plea, such as when no one claims the property or the defendant cannot be located and arrested.
House Bill 4002 requires the government to notify an individual if their property has been seized and places the burden on the government to prove that this forfeiture is justified. If it is not, the property must be returned to the owner within 14 days.
Currently, law enforcement officers are permitted to seize property if they had probable cause to suspect that it had been used for, or derived from, a controlled substance violation.
The state was legally allowed to retain the property, or sell it and give the proceeds to the law enforcement agency that seized the property.
Senate Bill 2 and House Bills 4001 and 4002, sponsored by Senator Peter Lucido (SD 8) and Representatives Jason Wentworth (HD 97) and David LaGrand (HD 75), will take effect 90 days after its enactment.