When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Timbs v. Indiana closing October, the courtroom stated, in essence, “Let’s make the punishment match the crime.” To our criminal justice gadget, the ruling stated, “Be certain that any seizure of belongings is proportional to some thing crime or illicit activity took place.”
What it did now not say is: Protect from seizure the property that the police can establish are derived from drug dealing. Yet, this is exactly what will occur if Senate Bill 2 or House Bills 4001 and 4002 are enacted.
The rhetoric repeatedly unfold with the aid of proponents of this regulation is that the police can prevent a person for having a headlight out and if they may be sporting coins, the police can genuinely seize their cash. This is simply incorrect and enormously offensive. Property can ONLY be seized while there may be likely motive to trust that the cash is from drug proceeds or belongings. This is the equal degree of evidence the police should have earlier than they arrest a person.
It is critical to reiterate that all and sundry who has had suspected drug proceeds or property seized has the subsequent rights:
— Notice: A written be aware is served explaining a person’s rights.
— Claim: A person can record a declare to contest the seizure.
— Defense: A man or woman can assert any felony defense.
— Discovery: A person can request civil discovery as accredited via courtroom regulations.
— Day in Court: A trial heard through an impartial court docket in the course of which the authorities ought to prove its case.
Michigan has already enacted crucial forfeiture reforms with the help of law enforcement. Three examples consist of: 1) elevating the usual of prison proof in asset forfeiture instances to “clean and convincing,” that is the best civil general; 2) creating a statewide system for reporting all seizures by police, and three) doing away with the need for defendants to publish a bond if they challenge a forfeiture.
Those who might put off forfeiture — or make it tough to use — ought to realize the history on why it got here to be. About 40 years ago, we confronted a rising scourge of unfettered drug dealing. Heroin and crack cocaine have been decimating neighborhoods. Yet, when officials arrested drug dealers, they had no manner to capture their assets. Criminal gangs should preserve great profits and different belongings at sites apart from wherein their tablets had been offered. Shortly after the arrest befell, many dealers speedy went again into enterprise even as anticipating trial using the equal vehicles, coins and drug dens.
Asset forfeiture changed into a leap forward that better public protection. Even while we couldn’t get convictions of high-level dealers, we could disrupt their income by way of confiscating their assets. Complicit landlords were pressured to either evict drug-dealing tenants or risk losing their actual property.
Since enacting reforms for the duration of the 2015-2016 legislative session, it has not been confirmed that a hassle currently exists. Stringent and transparent techniques are currently in place to shield residents whilst keeping drug sellers from profiting. The testimony being furnished approximately “alleged” abuses of the forfeiture laws pre-date these expansive and significant reforms.
Law enforcement can be severely handicapped if state lawmakers succumb to the false impression that no forfeiture have to take vicinity without a conviction on proceeds underneath $50,000. It is a dramatic misunderstanding that a conviction can be acquired in all drug instances. Drugs and proceeds aren’t continually found collectively which makes acquiring criminal convictions in sure instances impossible. Linking civil asset forfeiture to a crook conviction allows drug sellers to hold taking advantage of dealing demise in our groups. Illicit drug interest will once more flourish on the rate of public safety.
The $50,000 threshold located in this law truly manner that drug dealers will delivery money in sums of less than $50,000. The eventualities I worry contain locating suspects in a house or a car in ownership of $49,000 in cash with out a legitimate clarification. Drugs won’t be gift, however the whole lot else confirms and indicates drug trafficking, i.E., ledger books, scales, pre-recorded narcotics buy funds and packaging substances. In this specific situation, in addition to a large number of others, the police and prosecutors could not set up a case to seize some thing if Michigan adopts the $50,000 threshold.
If these statutory amendments are enacted, they’ll mandate linking the very last disposition of a criminal case with a civil forfeiture. There are numerous moral reasons that this has now not been carried out in the beyond. Lower-stage offenders often have an incentive to work with law enforcement to goal major dealers and, as a result, get hold of a lesser offense or no conviction in any respect. This is surely within the interest of justice and furthers public safety. Requiring a conviction to proceed with a civil forfeiture works to the detriment of each defendants and regulation enforcement under those oft-repeated occasions.
For the sake of our public safety, allow’s preserve Michigan’s cutting-edge practical forfeiture law intact.
About the author: Robert Stevenson is the retired leader of police from the Livonia Police Department and modern executive director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.