In 2017, Michigan law enforcement agencies seized property – homes, cars and cash — from nearly 1,000 people who were suspected of a crime but were never convicted or, in some cases, never charged.
A report on police seizures compiled by the Michigan State Police found that, among 956 people caught up in the asset forfeiture process, 736 were never charged with a crime that allows for forfeitures. Another 220 people were charged but not convicted.
According to the Midland-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy, an additional 228 individuals cooperated with law enforcement but still had assets forfeited to the government. Under Michigan law, police can acquire assets in criminal investigations where a suspect’s property may have been connected to the proceeds of alleged crimes, such as drug dealing or theft.
Overall, 6,666 people had their property taken from them last year under the civil asset forfeiture process. More than one-third of those still had their cases pending at the start of this year. Law enforcement agencies used the forfeiture process to collect $13.1 million, most of which was cash, the Mackinac Center reported.
Opposition to asset forfeitures has created an unusual political bond between the conservative Mackinac Center, which leans libertarian, and the Michigan ACLU, which leans left.
In May, the state House passed a bipartisan bill that would prevent property forfeiture in most drug cases unless the owner is criminally convicted. That measure is pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Supporters of the legislation say Michigan should join the 15 other states which require a criminal conviction before forfeiting property.