Tag Archives: civil asset forfeiture

Civil Asset Forfeiture Model Language

Model language for a municipal charter amendment to address civil asset forfeiture. This language has been tailored to Michigan cities.

New Section ____ of the Charter of the City of ­­____, Michigan

Section ____. Property Seizure and Forfeiture.

As used in this section, “property” shall be liberally construed to include assets and possessions; “employee” includes anyone acting under the authority of the city. A conviction of a criminal offense is a prerequisite to forfeiture and the transfer to the City of _____ of title to property directly used in or derived from that offense. All revenues from forfeited property, including revenue derived from sharing proceeds of forfeited property from cooperation with other federal, state, or local agencies, shall be placed in a separate fund, used only to pay costs directly related to local street repair, and shall not be earmarked or allocated to law enforcement or code enforcement. At any time, a property owner may ask the City or a court to return property that was wrongly seized or because there is no reason for the City to continue to hold the property. No bond shall be required on any property seized under authority of the city. If property is wrongfully seized, the City has no reason to continue to hold the property, or the property owner is not convicted of a criminal offense that has a forfeiture provision, the city shall return, replace, or provide full compensation for any property damaged, defaced, or devalued as a result of seizure by city employees. Records of all property seizures shall be indexed by date, department, name of owner, property type, and seizure value, and include details of the conviction. These records shall be published monthly on the city’s publicly-accessible website consistent with Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act 442 of 1976.

 

Let’s break it down:

 

The language is a proposed charter amendment. The first line identifies this as a new law, gives the section of the charter, and the city name. If the language is approved this will not appear in the charter.

New Section ____ of the Charter of the City of ­­____, Michigan

 

Section title. This will appear in the charter. Not everyone is familiar with the phrase “civil asset forfeiture.” In this model “Property Seizure” was used to clarify the issue.

Section ____. Property Seizure and Forfeiture.

 

It is common to provide definitions for terms in the amendment.

                As used in this section, “property” shall be liberally construed to include assets and possessions; “employee” includes anyone acting under the authority of the city.

 

This is the meat and potatoes. Don’t take property unless a law has been broken, and then only take the property involved in the crime or gained because of the crime.

A conviction of a criminal offense is a prerequisite to forfeiture and the transfer to the City of _____ of title to property directly used in or derived from that offense.

 

This line is for cases of forfeiture with a conviction and to address revenue sharing with a state or federal agencies. Law enforcement should not be policing for profit. Proceeds from the sale of property should not go to those taking the property. In this model, the money is used for street repair. Check state statutes, forfeiture proceeds may be required to go into a specific fund. This model attempts to address the problem of local law enforcement teaming up with federal or state agencies to avoid state or local prohibitions on civil asset forfeiture.

All revenues from forfeited property, including revenue derived from sharing proceeds of forfeited property from cooperation with other federal, state, or local agencies, shall be placed in a separate fund, used only to pay costs directly related to local street repair, and shall not be earmarked or allocated to law enforcement or code enforcement.

 

Property owners should not be deprived of their assets indefinitely.

At any time, a property owner may ask the City or a court to return property that was wrongly seized or because there is no reason for the City to continue to hold the property.

 

Many states require a property owner to pay a bond before they are allowed to challenge a seizure.

No bond shall be required on any property seized under authority of the city.

 

If the items seized are perishable or have been damaged, the government should replace or fix the property. It’s important innocent owners not be penalized.

If property is wrongfully seized, the City has no reason to continue to hold the property, or the property owner is not convicted of a criminal offense that has a forfeiture provision, the city shall return, replace, or provide full compensation for any property damaged, defaced, or devalued as a result of seizure by city employees.

 

Transparency is needed to ensure the city complies with the law. This model includes the statutes dealing with government transparency in Michigan.

Records of all property seizures shall be indexed by date, department, name of owner, property type, and seizure value, and include details of the conviction. These records shall be published monthly on the city’s publicly-accessible website consistent with Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act 442 of 1976.

 

 

Civil Asset Forfeiture

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Filed under asset forfeiture, Ballot measures, Ballot Question, charter amendment, Criminal Justice Reform, Initiative, Model Langauge, transparency

Michigan Forfeiture Reporting 2015

From Michigan Capitol Confidential:

A package of bills designed to give the public access to information on property seized by, or forfeited to, government entities is under consideration by a state House committee. The legislation would require government entities across the state to submit annual reports to the Michigan State Police (MSP) on property they’ve seized or received through forfeiture. The information would be compiled, issued in an annual report to the Legislature and posted on the MSP website.

AssetForfeitureBillsSummary

HB 4500 Introduced by Representative Jim Runestad

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN ENACT:
SEC. 79D. (1) BEGINNING FEBRUARY 1, 2016, EACH REPORTING AGENCY SHALL REPORT ALL SEIZURE AND FORFEITURE ACTIVITIES UNDER THIS ACT TO THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE POLICE AS REQUIRED UNDER THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING ACT.
(2) BEGINNING FEBRUARY 1, 2016, EACH REPORTING AGENCY IS SUBJECT TO AUDIT AS REQUIRED UNDER THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING ACT.
(3) AS USED IN THIS SECTION, “REPORTING AGENCY” MEANS THAT TERM AS DEFINED IN SECTION 7 OF THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING  ACT.

HB 4503 Introduced by Representative Triston Cole

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN ENACT:
SEC. 4710. (1) BEGINNING FEBRUARY 1, 2016, EACH REPORTING AGENCY SHALL REPORT ALL SEIZURE AND FORFEITURE ACTIVITIES UNDER THIS CHAPTER TO THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE POLICE AS REQUIRED UNDER THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING ACT.
(2) BEGINNING FEBRUARY 1, 2016, EACH REPORTING AGENCY IS SUBJECT TO AUDIT AS REQUIRED UNDER THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING ACT.
(3) AS USED IN THIS SECTION, “REPORTING AGENCY” MEANS THAT TERM AS DEFINED IN SECTION 7 OF THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING ACT.

HB 4504 Introduced by Representative Klint Kesto

A bill to create the uniform forfeiture reporting act; to require certain reports by reporting agencies regarding seized and forfeited property; to prescribe the powers and duties of certain local and state officials; to provide for certain fees and the expenditure of those fees; to require certain audits; to require certain reports by the department of state police; to provide for the withholding of law enforcement funds under certain circumstances; and to repeal acts and parts of acts.
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN ENACT:
Sec. 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the “uniform forfeiture reporting act”.
Sec. 2. (1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3), before February 1 of each year, each reporting agency shall submit a report to the department of state police summarizing the reporting agency’s activities for the preceding calendar year regarding the forfeiture of property under sections 7521 to 7533 of the public health code, 1978 PA 368, MCL 333.7521 to 333.7533, chapter 38 of the revised judicature act of 1961, 1961 PA 236, MCL 600.3801 to 600.3840, and chapter 47 of the revised judicature act of 1961, 1961 PA 236, MCL 600.4701 to 600.4709. The annual report shall contain the following information, as applicable:
(a) The number of forfeiture proceedings that were instituted in the circuit court by the reporting agency.
(b) The number of forfeiture proceedings instituted by the reporting agency that were concluded in the circuit court.
(c) The number of all forfeiture proceedings instituted by the reporting agency that were pending in the circuit court at the end of the year.
(d) The number of forfeitures effectuated by the reporting agency without a forfeiture proceeding in the circuit court.
(e) The number of forfeiture proceedings subject to a plea or any other similar agreement involving the property owner and reporting agency.
(f) An inventory of property received by the reporting agency. Property shall be reported in accordance with each of the following categories:
(i) Residential real property.
(ii) Industrial or commercial real property.
(iii) Agricultural real property.
(iv) Money, negotiable instruments, and securities.
(v) Weapons.
(vi) Motor vehicles and other conveyances.
(vii) Other personal property of value.
(g) Each property inventoried under subdivision (f) shall include a description that contains the following information, as applicable:
(i) The date the property was seized.
(ii) The final disposition of the property, including the date the property was ordered forfeited or disposed of.
(iii) The estimated value of the property.
(iv) The violation or nuisance alleged to have been committed for which forfeiture is authorized.
(v) Whether any person was charged with the violation for which forfeiture is authorized and whether that person was ultimately convicted of that violation.
(vi) The number of claimants to the property.
(vii) Whether the forfeiture resulted from an adoptive seizure. As used in this subdivision, “adoptive seizure” means that all of the following apply:
(A) The seizure resulted from a violation of state law and there is a federal basis for the forfeiture action.
(B) All of the preseizure activity and related investigations were performed by this state or the local reporting agency before a request was made to the federal government for adoption.
(C) The seizure did not result from a joint investigation or task force case.
(h) The net total proceeds of all property forfeited through actions instituted by the reporting agency that the reporting agency is required to account for and report to the state treasurer under either of the following, as applicable:
(i) 1919 PA 71, MCL 21.41 to 21.55.
(ii) The uniform budgeting and accounting act, 1968 PA 2, MCL  141.421 to 141.440a.
(i) For forfeiture proceedings instituted under the public
health code, 1978 PA 368, MCL 333.1101 to 333.25211:
(i) A statement explaining how any money received by the reporting agency under section 7524(1)(b)(ii) of the public health code, 1978 PA 368, MCL 333.7524, has been used or is being used for law enforcement purposes.
(ii) A statement of the number of lights for plant growth or scales donated under section 7524(2) of the public health code, 1978 PA 368, MCL 333.7524, the total value of those lights or scales, and the elementary or secondary schools or institutions of higher education to which they were donated.
(j) For nuisance proceedings instituted under chapter 38 of the revised judicature act of 1961, 1961 PA 236, MCL 600.3801 to 600.3840, a statement explaining how net proceeds were directed under section 3835 of the revised judicature act of 1961, 1961 PA 236, MCL 600.3835.
(k) For forfeiture proceedings instituted under chapter 47 of the revised judicature act of 1961, 1961 PA 236, MCL 600.4701 to 600.4709, the amount of money received under section 4708(1)(f) of the revised judicature act of 1961, 1961 PA 235, MCL 600.4708, that was used to enhance enforcement of criminal laws and the amount of money that was used to implement the William Van Regenmorter crime victim’s rights act, 1985 PA 87, MCL 780.751 to 780.834.
(2) Subsection (1) applies only to proceedings commenced on or after the effective date of this act.
(3) Subsection (1)(g) through (k) applies only to proceedings that have been finalized for purposes of appeal.
Sec. 3. A null report shall be filed under this act by a reporting agency that did not engage in any forfeitures during the reporting period.
Sec. 4. A reporting agency may use forfeiture proceeds to pay the reasonable costs associated with compiling, analyzing, and reporting data under this act.
Sec. 5. (1) The records of a reporting agency regarding the forfeiture of any property that is required to be reported under this act shall be audited in accordance with 1 of the following, as applicable:
(a) 1919 PA 71, MCL 21.41 to 21.55.
(b) The uniform budgeting and accounting act, 1968 PA 2, MCL 141.421 to 141.440a.
(2) The records of a reporting agency regarding the forfeiture of any property required to be reported under this act may be audited by an auditor of the local unit of government.
Sec. 6. The department of state police shall compile the information reported to the department under sections 2 and 3. Beginning January 1, 2016, the department shall file an annual report of its findings under this section with the secretary of the senate and with the clerk of the house of representatives and shall place a copy of the report on its departmental website. The report shall be filed not later than July 1 of each year. The report shall identify any state departments or agencies or local units of government that have failed to properly report the information required under sections 2 and 3 with the department of state police.
Sec. 7. As used in this act:
(a) “Local unit of government” means a village, city, township, or county.
(b) “Reporting agency” means 1 of the following:
(i) If property is seized by or forfeited to a local unit of government, that local unit of government.
(ii) If property is seized by or forfeited to this state, the state department or agency effectuating the seizure or forfeiture.

HB 4506 Introduced by Representative Jason Sheppard

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN ENACT:
SEC. 7524B. (1) BEGINNING FEBRUARY 1, 2016, EACH REPORTING AGENCY SHALL REPORT ALL SEIZURE AND FORFEITURE ACTIVITIES UNDER THIS ARTICLE TO THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE POLICE AS REQUIRED UNDER THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING ACT.
(2) BEGINNING FEBRUARY 1, 2016, EACH REPORTING AGENCY IS SUBJECT TO AUDIT OR REQUIRED UNDER THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING ACT.
(3) AS USED IN THIS SECTION, “REPORTING AGENCY” MEANS THAT TERM AS DEFINED IN SECTION 7 OF THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING ACT.

HB 4507 Introduced by Representative Brandt Iden 

 THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN ENACT:
SEC. 3841. (1) BEGINNING FEBRUARY 1, 2016, EACH REPORTING AGENCY SHALL REPORT ALL SEIZURE AND FORFEITURE ACTIVITIES UNDER THIS CHAPTER TO THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE POLICE AS REQUIRED UNDER THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING ACT.
(2) BEGINNING FEBRUARY 1, 2016, EACH REPORTING AGENCY IS SUBJECT TO AUDIT AS REQUIRED UNDER THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING ACT.
(3) AS USED IN THIS SECTION, “REPORTING AGENCY” MEANS THAT TERM AS DEFINED IN SECTION 7 OF THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING ACT.

 

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Rio Rancho Doesn’t Care About A Trial

The Rio Rancho, New Mexico city council thinks the car you’re driving should be forfeit if you are arrested for drunk driving. Most of us would expect a trial first, and perhaps if you’re driving another person’s car they should get a chance to contend the forfeiture. Fortunately, Todd Hathore is stepping up to defend the idea that we’re innocent until proven guilty. Todd has organized a referendum petition drive to let voters decide this issue. It requires signatures from 10% of the registered voters to call a referendum vote in Rio Rancho, hopefully some additional citizens will stand with Todd and insist on a trial before punishment.

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DC Council Tackles Police Takings

The Washington, D.C. City Council voted unanimously to advance legislation making significant reforms to the use of civil asset forfeiture by the city’s police force.  A second and final vote will take place on December 2.

Throughout the United States, the rules of civil asset forfeiture allow police officers to seize personal property such as cash, cars and even houses without charging the owners of that property with any crime. Police are also allowed to keep the proceeds in most jurisdictions around the country and a large part of the proceeds when they work through the federal “equitable sharing” program.

The legislation in Washington, D.C., will end the requirement that citizens have to post cash bonds to challenge such seizures, provides greater transparency about what is taken by police and how citizens can challenge those takings, would put all proceeds into the city’s general fund and not allow police to keep the funds they seize, and it will also end the city’s involvement in the federal program that shares the proceeds from civil asset forfeiture with local police departments.

Still, many rightly complain that the bill doesn’t go nearly far enough. For instance, it would allow asset seizures until 2018 through the federal “equitable sharing” program, justified because $670,000 per year has already been budgeted for the police operations from those proceeds.

Liberty Initiative Fund has launched a “Stop Stealing” campaign, working with local and state-level activists to put reform measures on the ballot, which will bring an end to the abuse of civil asset forfeiture.

Washington Post: DC Council votes to overhaul asset forfeiture

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