Seven-Bill Package Looks to Address Civil Forfeiture Laws
More reforms from Michigan legalization could be coming. The changes include a possible seven-bill package that addresses some of the controversy over the civil forfeiture. Civil asset forfeiture laws allow law enforcement agencies to seize property and profit from that property even if the owner was never charged with a crime.
This seven-bill package now sits on the desk of Governor Snyder.
Some of the controversy is whether or not police are abusing the ability to seized personal assets. The Detroit News reported that in 2014, Michigan police seized almost $24 million dollars worth of assets. However, the Detroit News believes that number to be low since 56 agencies did not respond to the Government Asset Forfeiture Report Form.
The question of abuse comes up when cases like Linda Ross’s appear.
Women’s Car Seized After a Tip of Weed
On an April night in 2013, Linda Ross had been working as a pizza delivery driver when she was pulled over for a traffic stop. The police officer found a gram of weed on her. A gram of marijuana, according to an article by the Huffington Post is worth about $20.
The police officer then seized her 2007 Ford Focus under civil forfeiture laws and impounded it. Ross told the Huffington Post the following,
“It felt like a nightmare — like I was actually being kidnapped and robbed. It was so shocking to see that he was taking my car so fast. Within a minute or two, he literally drove it away. He radioed in an officer and he came down and they drove it away.”
What later became one of the most important parts of Linda’s case was the marijuana she had on hand was from a customer. It was a tip for delivering pizza. She had never intended to go to the house and purchase marijuana.
After some time in the appeal courts, it was finally ruled in a 2-1 decision that because Ross had not intentionally driven her car to purchase marijuana that the vehicle should not have been seized.
Simply possessing marijuana is not enough grounds to seize assets.
What Would The Seven-Bill Package Change?
Both the Huffington Post and the Detroit News reported that it will increase the standards of proof needed for forfeiture. Law enforcement will have to show evidence that the property was related to the crime that is “clear and convincing”. Another part of the bill would include police having to keep detailed records of the cases that have forfeitures.
Michigan Live reported that police agencies will have to file annual reports with the state about their forfeiture cases and proceedings.
MLive also reports that this seven-bill package is a bipartisan effort. One Michigan Senator was quoted saying there are bills that both the far right and the far left love.
Unfortunately for Linda Ross, while she was still in the appeals process her car was sold. These means, that she and her defense attorney will seek another form of compensation. That will mean more court dates and more legal fees.
What do you think? Do you think these new bills will solve the problem? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.