State Rep. Peter Lucido today announced the House Judiciary Committee will soon hold a hearing on his legislation requiring a criminal conviction before law enforcement officers can seize property using the civil asset forfeiture process.
As a former probation officer and criminal defense lawyer of more than 30 years, Lucido said he witnessed law enforcement agencies abuse Michigan’s civil asset forfeiture law, which is intended to allow for the confiscation of property gained from the commission of a crime.
“No one should profit from criminal activity, but we also need to make certain that nobody’s constitutional right to due process is trampled on,” said Lucido, of Shelby Township. “I have seen an overwhelming number of instances over the years where police take an individual’s property through civil asset forfeiture and never even bring criminal charges. It’s absolutely ridiculous, and it needs to end.”
Under the current law, Lucido said law enforcement officers are allowed to use their own subjective standard to take personal property from people simply because they suspect a crime has been committed.
“In our criminal justice system, individuals are presumed innocent unless and until they are convicted,” he said. “Unfortunately, that isn’t the case with our state’s civil asset forfeiture process. With no hearings before the taking of property, the police have become the judge and jury.”
While an individual whose property is seized can later contest the taking of their property, Lucido said it’s often economically infeasible.
“When the police take $2,500 worth of an innocent, uncharged person’s property, but it’s going to cost them $3,000 to hire a lawyer to fight it, the result is an economic reality of cost-benefit,” Lucido said.
Lucido’s legislation, House Bill 4158, would require a conviction to be in place before the civil asset forfeiture process is initiated. The House Judiciary Committee is expected to take testimony on the bill during a meeting immediately following House session on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.
“I’m looking forward to the hearing,” Lucido said. “There are no reasonable arguments law enforcement can make to warrant taking property from citizens before affording them their fundamental due process rights.”