Innocent citizens whose property is seized by police in Michigan have to pay cash for the chance to get it back. Even worse, there’s no guarantee that those who pay the cash will get their belongings returned.
Homeowners whose property is seized have to put up a bond to appeal the forfeiture. If that wasn’t outrageous enough, owners of seized property can be forced to pay the government’s legal bills if they lose in court.
“Once a property has been seized, the owners then have to pay anywhere from $250 to $5,000 just to begin the procedure to win back what’s rightfully theirs,” Jarrett Skorup and Nick Sibilla wrote of the state’s forfeiture laws.
“Under Michigan law, if your property is seized and valued less than $50,000, you must post a bond worth 10% of the property’s value to start the process of having it returned to you,” the two wrote in The Detroit Free Press. “But if you fail to post that bond within 20 days of the property being seized, it is automatically forfeited to the state.”
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“And if you pay the bond but fail to win the property back in court, you can be ordered to pay the expenses the government incurred during the forfeiture proceedings,” Sibilla and Skorup concluded.
Skorup is a policy analyst at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, while Sabilla is a communications associate with the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit law firm that fights forfeiture throughout the nation.
The two were writing in favor of Michigan House Bill 4629, which would abolish the bond requirement. Michigan is one of four states that “mandate a bond before owners can appeal to a neutral judge to get their seized property back,” Sabilla and Skorup wrote.
“Michiganders can still lose their property even if they have never been convicted in criminal court,” they wrote. “Meanwhile, state law provides a perverse incentive to seize property and ‘police for profit.’ After a property has been forfeited, police and prosecutors can keep up to 100% of the proceeds.
“…Forcing property owners — who may be innocent after all — to pay to challenge a legal proceeding offends fundamental American notions of due process and fair play.”
Between 2001 and 2014, Michigan agencies collected more than $258 million in forfeiture proceeds, according to an Institute for Justice report.
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