The House Oversight and Ethics Committee this week approved legislation that will bring further reforms to Michigan’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws.
Late last year, Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation reforming Michigan’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws. These reforms include additional reporting requirements for police officers and higher standards for prosecutors, improving communication and transparency at all levels of government.
The reforms have received bipartisan praise and support, but many, including Rep. Peter Lucido, want to see the reforms go a bit further, specifically with regard to the provision requiring that property owners post a 10 percent bond within 20 days to fight for their property in court.
Lucido, who sponsored a bill in the original package, authored House Bill 4629 which would remove this requirement.
“In my many years as an attorney I have seen the process of civil asset forfeiture spiral out of control,” said Rep. Lucido, R-Shelby Township. “I have seen items seized that include everything from cars and homes to food, diapers and someone’s last hundred dollars in cash. Tell me how that single mother working three jobs is going to post a 10 percent bond when you just took everything she had—she’s not, because it will cost her more in legal fees than her items are worth.
Lucido said the bond requirement disproportionately impacts lower-income individuals by not only putting them at a disadvantage financially, but discouraging many from seeking justice in a confusing system.
“The law says we are innocent until proven guilty, but by taking someone’s property before they are even criminally charged, much less convicted, and then making them pay for a chance to fight for it in civil court we are hindering access to due process for all,” Lucido said. “By removing this requirement, everyone can have their day in court regardless of their ability to pay.”
HB 4629 was voted out of committee unanimously and now moves to the full House for consideration.