Bipartisan legislation protects private property rights, civil liberties
LANSING, Mich. — Civil asset forfeiture reform legislation introduced by Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, is on its way to Gov. Rick Snyder after the bill was unanimously approved Wednesday by the Michigan Senate. The reforms also have been endorsed by Attorney General Bill Schuette and the Michigan Association of Police Organizations.
The governor is expected to sign Rep. Glenn’s House Bill 4499 into law, which would require police to have “clear and convincing” evidence that a person’s property was involved in criminal activity before seizing it. Rep. Glenn, the bill’s primary sponsor, was joined by 38 cosponsors — 14 Democrats and 24 Republicans — in introducing HB 4499, which had been approved by the state House of Representatives in June by a vote of 104-5. If signed by the governor, it will be the first legislation introduced by Rep. Glenn to be enacted into law.
“This important reform allows law enforcement personnel to do their jobs while protecting innocent citizens’ civil liberties and private property rights,” Rep. Glenn said. “I salute and thank my fellow legislators in both parties for their near-unanimous bipartisan support.”
Rep. Glenn’s bill will require prosecutors to have “clear and convincing evidence” that property was used in creating criminal public nuisances such as prostitution, dogfighting, or storage of explosives.
Prosecutors under current law are only required to provide a “preponderance of the evidence” before seizing personal property such as cash, cars, homes, and other items during police raids, which can then be auctioned off to supplement law enforcement budgets.
In the worst cases of civil asset forfeiture abuse, private property has been seized and kept by government officials even when the owner is never even charged with a crime, much less prosecuted or convicted.
Glenn’s bill is part of a package of reform legislation that will increase transparency in Michigan’s civil asset forfeiture system and protect innocent citizens from indiscriminate police seizure of the property by imposing reporting requirements on law enforcement agencies and raising the level of evidence required for property seizure.