By Doug Cunningham
Groups across Michigan’s political spectrum are united in support of a bi-partisan effort to change civil forfeiture laws. Charlie Owens is Michigan Director for the National Federation of Independent Business.
“Civil forfeiture laws basically allow the government, primarily police agencies, to seize private property from a citizen or a small business owner without ever charging them with a crime or providing any evidence prior to seizing the assets – and are allowed to pocket the proceeds that they collect from people while providing no real prompt way to get a court to review the seizure,” Owens tells us.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration is working with Republican Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield to change the law by requiring criminal convictions in most cases before forfeiture can occur. Owens says one NFIB member was the victim of a bad tip that caused a police raid and seizure of his auto parts inventory. The man was not guilty of any crime but still suffered under civil forfeiture laws.
“And it took him almost a year to get it back. And he was never charged with anything. He almost went out of business. I mean, you can imagine if you’re in a small business and they seize your inventory and it takes you a year to get it back, there’s not too many people could withstand that.”
Owens is optimistic that the bipartisan effort to change Michigan civil forfeiture laws will succeed.