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Asset Forfeiture

Under Michigan law, law enforcement officers are permitted to seize property for forfeiture if they have cause to believe the property is involved in a drug trafficking scheme.

Michigan’s civil asset forfeiture laws allow the agency that seized the property to then petition the court for an order to forfeit the property.

After the forfeiture, the agency that seized the property then becomes the owner of the property and the person from whom it was seized is left empty-handed. Officers can then use or sell the forfeited property for law enforcement purposes.

Asset forfeiture, also known as property seizures, is a tactic used by law enforcement agencies to punish the defendant and reap the rewards of their property.

Forfeitures have proven fruitful for law enforcement agencies as a report from 2017 reveals Michigan law enforcement agencies seized more than $13 million in assets.

These startling numbers illustrate the persistence of law enforcement agencies to seize as many assets as they can so it can be funneled back into their agency.

For this reason, we recommended finding an experienced asset forfeiture attorney if you’ve received a notice of forfeiture.

Attorney for Asset Forfeiture in Michigan

At Dallo Law, P.C., we can help you contest a seizure for forfeiture involving the Michigan Department of State Police (MSP) or any local law enforcement agency. We also fight federal civil asset forfeiture cases when money is seized at the airport.

Our aggressive managing attorney J. Dallo can help you file a claim to contest the seizure of your property and to assert an ownership interest in the seized property. When it comes to drug forfeiture laws, we can help you assert your rights at every stage of the proceeding.

A drug forfeiture attorney at Dallo Law, P.C. can help you petition a court so you can have your cash, personal belongings or property returned to you. We can prove to the court that the entity who seized the property for forfeiture had insufficient evidence connecting the property to the commission of any crime.

Additionally, our legal team assists medical marijuana users who have been victim to asset forfeiture because of the lack of forfeiture provisions within the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. This includes medical marijuana business owners who have their cash forfeited at a bank or when purchasing a large number of items from a supply store.

Allegations that law enforcement agencies are abusing the civil asset forfeiture law increase every day. Don’t wait another moment if your property or cash has been seized.

Instead, contact an effective and efficient criminal asset forfeiture attorney in the Oakland County and Macomb County area at (248) 283-7000 for a free consultation.

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Requirements of Michigan’s Civil Asset Forfeiture

Article 7 of the Public Health Code prohibits certain activities, such as the manufacture, delivery, and possession of controlled substances. The article also establishes penalties for such violations.

Under section 7522, certain types of assets involved in drug crimes can be seized with a warrant, or without a warrant under certain circumstances.

In 2019, Governor Whitmer signed Senate Bill 2 and House Bills 4001 and 40002 into law. Both bills prohibit law enforcement from seizing assets (under $50,000 in value) if the defendant hasn’t been convicted of a crime or submitted a plea agreement.

Under Section 7521a, under most circumstances, property may be seized for the reasons listed in Section 7522 for a violation of Article 7 (Controlled Substance) of the Code. This property is not subject to forfeiture under Section 7521 or disposition under Section 7524, however, unless or until a criminal proceeding involving or relating to the property has been completed and the defendant pleads guilty to or is convicted of a violation of Article 7.

A criminal conviction or guilty plea is not required if one or more of a list of circumstances apply.

Under Section 7523a, if Section 7521a applies to a forfeiture case under Article 7, then the seized property is subject to forfeiture under Section 7521. If a person files a verified claim to property or an objection to forfeiture, then the civil asset forfeiture action must be stayed until the criminal proceedings are finalized.

The stay lasts until either:

  • the defendant is convicted of, or enters a guilty plea to, the offense involved; or
  • one or more events described in Section 7521a applies.

The Michigan legislature just created an exception to these rules for the seizure of property by law enforcement officers appointed by a public airport authority or by a regional airport authority.

What Types of Property is Subject to Seizure under Section 7521?

The different types of assets that can be subject to forfeiture are listed in section 7521. Some examples include the following:

  • Prescription for a controlled substance;
  • Aircrafts, motor vehicles, boats, or water vessels;
  • Books, records, research products, microfilm, tapes, data uses or intended to use for some sort of drug crime;
  • Property used to contain drugs such as a tubber ware container or plastic baggy;
  • Lights, plastic tubs and hoses, fertilizer, chemicals, or whatever tools used to manufacture or cultivate a controlled substance

Any type of property, including U.S. currency, can be seized and subject to forfeiture if law enforcement claims that it was used or intended to be used in a drug scheme. Items that are exchanged for a controlled substance, imitated controlled substance or other drugs can also be seized by law enforcement agencies.

Under Section 7521 of the Public Health Code, the following types of property are subject to forfeiture proceedings in Michigan:

  • money, negotiable instruments, securities or other valuable property that is furnished or intended to be furnished in exchange for a controlled substance in violation of Article 7 that is traceable to the exchange;
  • a controlled substance that has been manufactured, distributed, used, possessed, or acquired in violation of Article 7;
  • any other drug paraphernalia;
  • raw material, product, or equipment that is used, or intended for use, in manufacturing, compounding, processing, or delivering a controlled substance in violation of Article 7;
  • a conveyance, including an aircraft, vehicle, or vessel used or intended for use to transport property described in either of the first two provisions, for the purpose of sale or receipt, subject to several exceptions;
  • books, records, and research products and materials used, or intended for use, in violation of Article 7; or
  • property that is used or intended for use as a container for property described in either of the first two provisions of Section 7521.

When is a Seizure without Process Allows in Michigan?

Section 7522 explains the circumstances under which property that is subject to forfeiture under Article 7 or pursuant to Section 7521 may be seized either with or without process. In some circumstances, the process is issued by the circuit court having jurisdiction over the property. Otherwise, a seizure without process may only be made under any of the following circumstances:

  • there is probable cause to believe that the property was used or is intended to be used in violation of Article 7;
  • there is probable cause to believe that the property is directly or indirectly dangerous to health or safety;
  • the property is the subject of a prior judgment in favor of the State in an injunction or forfeiture proceeding under Article 7; or
  • incident to lawful arrest, pursuant to a search warrant, or pursuant to an inspection under an administrative inspection warrant.

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Critics of Civil Asset Forfeiture in Michigan

The theory behind civil asset forfeiture laws is to deter criminal activity by taking away the financial incentive to commit crimes. However, there are many people who contend that seizures for forfeiture are subject to misuse and abuse by law enforcement. Often critics of civil asset forfeiture laws will state the legislation amounts to “policing for profit” since the money from the forfeited property creates an incentive for law enforcement to pursue asset forfeiture cases.

The Michigan legislature made changes to civil asset forfeiture proceedings in this state in 2015 and 2016. Those legislative changes required governmental entities to file annual reports with the Department of State Police (MSP) regarding property that was seized and forfeited.

In turn, MSP is required to publish that information on its website. These reports have now disclosed how much money law enforcement agencies do receive from these forfeitures. In addition, the legislation also raised the threshold for violations of forfeiture of property related to controlled substance to now clear and convincing evidence.

For property seizures with a value that does not exceed $50,000 conducted without a warrant, the new legislation eliminated the requirement that a written claim by the property owner to recover the property be accompanied by a bond.

Several years later in 2019, the Governor of Michigan went on to sign several pieces of legislation that prohibits law enforcement from seizing property without a conviction or a plea agreement. This change was met with wild support from Michigan’s public policy institutions, however, law enforcement felt differently.

The executive director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police expressed that criminal conviction is not possible in every case and the new laws will stop officers from seizing property despite clear evidence of a drug crime.

It seems the hot debate over asset forfeiture laws continues between Michigan citizens and law enforcement. Thankfully, things seem to be moving in the right direction as newly passed laws have given added protections to Michigan citizens who weren’t charged or convicted of a crime.

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Statistics on Civil Asset Forfeiture in Michigan

According to the 2018 Asset Forfeiture Report issued by the Michigan Department of State Police (MSP), during the calendar year 2017 reporting period, at least 278 different law enforcement entities received funds from asset forfeiture proceedings in this state.

During 2017, the report showed that 5,558 of the forfeitures were related to violations of the Public Health Code. In the end, the statewide reported cases of asset forfeiture totaled 6,662.

Out of those 6,662 forfeitures, 736 never resulted in any criminal charge, 220 resulted in charges but no convictions, and 2,876 resulted in convictions. The remaining 2,368 charges were still pending at the conclusion of the reporting period.

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Vehicle Forfeitures in Michigan

In Michigan, the procedures for vehicle forfeitures are outlined in MCL 257.625n. The forfeiture is initiated by the prosecutor. The forms used in vehicle forfeitures include the following State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) forms:

  • MC-66
  • MC-68
  • MC-69

If the court orders forfeiture the unit of government that seized the vehicle sells it and disposes of the proceeds according to the applicable statute.

The balance remaining after the payment of items shall be distributed by the court that has jurisdiction over the forfeiture proceedings to the unit or units of government substantially involved in effecting the forfeiture.  The vehicle will be returned to the lessor if the defendant is leasing the vehicle.

The defendant can file a claim of interest in the vehicle after 14 days of receiving notice of forfeiture. The court will hold a hearing to determine the legitimacy of the claim to determine whether the vehicle should be forfeited or not.

When considering whether to order forfeiture, the court will overlook the defendant’s driving record to determine if the defendant has multiple criminal convictions, suspensions, denials or restrictions under Michigan law.

Those who knowingly conceal, sell, give away or otherwise dispose of the vehicle with intent to avoid forfeiture may face a misdemeanor. If convicted, the defendant could face up to a year in jail and a fine of no more than $1,000.

Seizures of Cash at the Detroit Metro Airport

What happens if your cash was seized at the airport in Detroit, MI?

Seizures of currency at the Detroit Metro Airport before a domestic or international flight are particularly common. If an officer with the Detroit Metro Airport Police Department seized the money, then you probably received a “Notice of Seizure and Intent to Forfeit” form. The form might also use the term “drug asset forfeiture” even though no drugs were found.

The receipt might not even list the amount of money seized. Instead, it might just say “undisclosed amount of bulk cash.”

When the Detroit Metro Airport Police Department seize the money, the case proceeds under Michigan law pursuant to the requirements of MCL 333.7521 if less than $50,000 was seized or pursuant to MCL 333.7522 if more than $50,000 was seized.

After the seizure based on MCL 333.7521 or MCL 333.7522, then you only have 20 days to file a verified claim with the agency that seized your money. If the claim is not received by the agency within 20 days, then you lose the right to challenge the legality of the seizure.

If a federal agent seizes the money at the Detroit Metro Wayne County Airport (DTW), then the forfeiture proceeding with follow federal law. In those cases, you must file the verified claim with the agency that seized the money.

At the Detroit Metro Airport, the federal agents that seize cash include U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Attorney J. Dallo is experienced in helping clients fight to get their money back after a seizure of currency at an airport in Michigan, including DTW.

What Happens to Forfeited Property under Article 7?

During 2017, more than $13 million in assets were subjected to forfeiture proceedings in Michigan. The main way the proceeds from forfeitures were used included:

  • 36% for law enforcement equipment
  • 9% for vehicles
  • 8.5% for personnel
  • 7% for supplies and materials

What happens after the court in Michigan signs an order allowing the forfeiture of the property under Article 7? Under Section 7524, when the property is forfeited under Article 7, the local unit of government that seized the property may do any of the following:

  • forward the forfeited property to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), within the United States Department of Justice, for disposition;
  • require the Michigan Board of Pharmacy to take custody of the property and remove it for disposition in accordance with the law;
  • sell the property that is not required to be destroyed by law and that is not harmful to the public; or
  • retain the property for official use.

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Additional Resources

Asset Forfeiture Abuse | ACLU – Visit the official website for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to learn more about asset forfeiture abuse in the U.S. Access the site to learn what asset forfeiture is, news related to asset forfeiture, reports of asset forfeiture abuse and more.

Michigan Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws – Visit the official website for the Michigan Legislature to read more about their civil asset forfeiture laws. Access the site to view the requirements needed by law enforcement to seize your property, what property can’t be seized, and how you can file a claim to get your money or property back.

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Michigan Asset Forfeiture Attorney in Bloomfield Hills

If you or someone you know has recently had their property seized by law enforcement, get in touch with the experienced legal fighters over at Dallo Law, P.C.. Attorney Dallo has years of experience and an in-depth understanding of asset forfeiture cases.

With his skills and resources, he can prove law enforcement’s evidence of a crime is insufficient so you can finally get your cash or belongings back.

Fight back against asset forfeiture abuse by calling Dallo Law, P.C. at (248) 283-7000 for a free consultation. We will set up your first consultation in the Oakland County and Macomb County area including Waterford Township, Pontiac, Troy, Royal Oak, Clarkston, Warren, Sterling Heights, St. Clair Shores, Utica, Clinton Township, and Sterling Heights.

Call (248) 283-7000 today.

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