House’s civil asset forfeiture bills move forward

Ottawa County

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The practice of taking valuables from people suspected of crimes, civil asset forfeiture, could be fundamentally changed by legislation advancing in the Michigan House.

The two bills, both of which passed another preliminary step Wednesday, would raise the limit for property that could be seized when someone is arrested to $50,000. Property valued for less than that could not be seized without a conviction.

>>Online: House Bill 4001 and 4002

State Rep. David LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids, is the sponsor of one of the bipartisan measures, which were the first to be introduced in the House this session.

“The heart of these bills is we want to make sure that if we’re taking someone’s property, we have a high level confidence that they were involved in illegal activity,” LaGrand explained. “So this shifts civil asset forfeiture for low-dollar events to a requirement that there be a criminal conviction. So for high dollar-events criminals, if you’re dealing with Al Capone or someone like that, you can still do civil asset forfeiture in the old mechanism.”

The House could put both bills up for final approval in the next few session days. Since the Senate has passed its own version, it seems likely some incarnation of civil asset forfeiture reform will become law in the coming weeks.

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