Civil Asset Forfeiture Law
For years, civil asset forfeiture law was so skewed against a property owner that it was almost pointless to fight a forfeiture case. Not anymore! New laws help even the table between the government and a claimant.
Changes in Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws & Policy
As prescribed by recent changes to civil asset forfeiture law in Michigan, law enforcement agencies were required to report all 2016 forfeitures by February of this year. That documentation has recently been made available to the public, and the results are shocking. Of 5,290 civil asset forfeitures in 2016 (amounting to more than $15 million in cash and property), 196 people were charged but never convicted. In an additional 523 cases, an astounding 10% of all forfeitures, no one was ever charged.
Reforms Good, But They Are Not Strong Enough
In 2015, Michigan passed a law that changed the standard by which law enforcement could take cash, valuables, and real property for forfeiture. The law required the government only to show that the claimant committed a crime by a preponderance of the evidence. A “preponderance of the evidence” means “more likely than not.” This standard is much lower than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the standard required for criminal convictions. Under the new law, there must be “clear and convincing evidence” of wrongdoing. “Clear and convincing” means the government must introduce proof that leaves the judge with a firm belief or conviction that it is highly probable that the allegations that the assets are the product of criminal activity. This standard is not as high as proof beyond a reasonable doubt, though it is a step in the right direction.
New Policy From Washington
Now come changes from the federal government. The former Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, announced the reversal of an Obama-era rule that discouraged the use of forfeiture. According to the attorney general, state and local police can pursue the seizure of assets if they suspect a violation of federal law. The standard used in pursuing forfeitures stemming from alleged violations of federal law is probable cause, an even lower threshold than even Michigan’s previous “preponderance of the evidence” standard. It appears that the government is now easing away from the archaic standards imposed under the former administration.
Civil Asset Forfeiture Law Attorneys
Much work must be done on the federal and state levels regarding civil asset forfeiture policy. The attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C., Michigan’s premier criminal defense law firm, are committed to protecting citizens’ rights against unjust forfeiture claims. Our team has fought to hold the government to the highest standards for decades. If you have been the victim of unjust civil asset forfeiture or believe the government has seized an unfair portion of your assets, call us for help. One of the firm’s experienced forfeiture attorneys will discuss your case and help determine the best strategy moving forward. When the government fails to meet its burden of proof, LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. will be there to stand up in court and see that justice is served.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete a Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.