Reforms continue to the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws as legislation authored by Rep. Peter Lucido was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder today.
House Bill 4629, now Public Act 418 of 2016, removes the requirement that property owners must post a 10 percent bond – not less than $250 or more than $5,000 – within 20 days of seizure by law enforcement officials to start the process of potentially returning the property to its owners.
“By taking someone’s property before they are even criminally charged and then making them pay for a chance to fight for their own property, we are hindering access to due process for all,” Rep. Lucido said. “Removal of this requirement provides everyone with their day in court, regardless of their ability to pay. Our Constitution provides that we are innocent until proven guilty and this legislation aligns with state law on that fundamental principle.”
In late 2015, Gov. Snyder signed previous legislation that reformed civil asset forfeiture laws, including additional reporting requirements for police officers and higher standards for prosecutors. Rep. Lucido was a sponsor in that package, but felt more reform was needed. He states that the 10-percent bond requirement disproportionately impacts lower-income individuals by putting them at a financial disadvantage and discouraging many to work within a convoluted court system.
“In my many years as an attorney, I have seen the process of civil asset forfeiture spiral out of control,” said Rep. Lucido. “I have seen items seized which include everything from cars and homes to food and the last few dollar bills in someone’s wallet. Tell me how a working single mother is going to post a 10 percent bond when everything she had has been taken? She’s not, because it will cost her more in legal fees than her property is worth.”