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Changes in state forfeiture law long past due

Although some in the law enforcement community might take issue, we believe legislation that’s headed to the desk of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer making fundamental changes in Michigan’s forfeiture law is not only appropriate but long past due.

Under the bill, which enjoyed rare bi-partisan support, police would be prohibited from permanently seizing property and cash taken in drug cases unless specific circumstances are met.

The Associated Press reported the legislation would prohibit assets taken in suspected drug crimes from being forfeited unless the defendant is convicted or the value of the money and property is more than $50,000, excluding the value of contraband. A conviction or guilty plea would not be required in instances where no one claims an interest in the property, the owner allows the forfeiture, or a defendant has been charged but cannot be located or extradited back to Michigan, stated AP.

Whitmer has pledged to sign the bill into law.

Police agencies have long been accused of abusing the current system, which netted them about $13.1 million in 2017 alone. At least 11 states require a criminal conviction to engage in some or all forfeiture proceedings, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Three states, we’re told, don’t allow forfeiture at all.

As evidenced by its support from both sides of the aisle, this is a good and reasonable move.

We hear complaints about forfeiture from time to time. Hopefully this change in the law will alleviate that.

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