State Reps. Jaime Greene and Doug Wozniak have introduced a plan to ensure funds seized through the civil asset forfeiture process are properly reported and spent on improving public safety.
“People want assurances government officials are using proceeds from the sale of property seized by the government exactly according to law,” said Wozniak, R-Shelby Township. “Corruption or even the appearance of corruption is a stain on our society. Our plan brings greater clarity to the civil asset forfeiture law by refining the process and limitations for its use.”
Current state law has flaws that could allow corrupt public officials to misuse funds seized through civil asset forfeiture. Civil asset forfeiture was established to ensure criminals do not profit from their crimes. Law enforcement is allowed to confiscate property – things like cash, homes, and vehicles – believed to have been used in, or gained through, the commission of a crime. The entity can then keep or sell the property and use the proceeds for public safety purposes.
In 2020, the former Macomb County Prosecutor was charged with embezzling and misconduct while in office, involving the misuse of civil asset forfeiture funds. Other county employees were also charged.
Current Macomb County Prosecutor Pete Lucido, who was successful in making previous incremental changes to the civil asset forfeiture law, has expressed his “full and unequivocal support” for the new legislation.
“I really like what Representatives Wozniak and Greene are doing with this legislation and hope to see it moving quickly through the legislative process when session resumes in January,” Lucido said.
House Bills 5382-83 would clarify the procedure for handling civil asset forfeiture funds. The plan would require these funds to be processed the same as other revenue – through the treasurer of the unit of government involved in the forfeiture. Funds would then be set aside for public safety purposes through that local government’s budget process.
“Most of our law enforcement agencies have put resources from civil asset forfeiture property to great use in our communities,” said Greene, R-Richmond. “These bills will provide the accountability and transparency necessary to help ensure all such funds are put to proper use improving public safety.”
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