Small Business Supports Further Civil Forfeiture Reforms

Date: December 28, 2015 Last Edit: June 13, 2016

Small Business Challenges in 2016

Small business owners in Michigan want to see more reform of the state’s “civil asset forfeiture” laws that would restrict the seizure of private property according to the results of a question asked on the 2016 NFIB/Michigan State Ballot. Last year, Governor Snyder signed legislation pushed by NFIB that
included new reporting provisions to track civil asset forfeiture seizures and raised the standard of proof for seizing assets from a “preponderance of
the evidence” to a higher “clear and convincing” standard. Now, NFIB members want to carry the reforms further in
2016.

Civil
forfeiture laws allow the government to seize private property from a citizen
or small business owner without ever charging them with a crime or providing evidence
prior to seizing the assets. Government authorities (typically police departments) often
pocket the proceeds while providing no prompt way to get a court to review the
seizure. There is no incentive or requirement for the government to
charge the business owner with a crime. Once the property is seized, government
agencies are free to keep the property until the business owner pursues return
of the property, which is often a costly and lengthy legal process that is
stacked in favor of the government.

When asked on the 2016 State Ballot: “Should Michigan’s laws on Civil Asset
Forfeiture be changed so that private property is seized only after a criminal conviction is
secured?” 74 percent of 
NFIB small business members said “Yes”, 12 percent said “No” and 14
percent were “Undecided”.

While we
applaud Governor Snyder and the Legislature for passing much needed reforms to Michigan’s civil asset forfeiture laws last
year, small business owners still believe the current laws lack due process and need to be changed so
that private property is seized only after a criminal
conviction is secured.

NFIB also supports recent legislation introduced by State Representative Peter Lucido (House Bill
4629) that would repeal a requirement for a property owner to provide a cash bond
before they could contest a civil forfeiture seizure of their property. The
House passed the bill before the spring break and it now awaits action in the Senate.

Many
small business owners carry large cash sums to the bank and to other business
locations for use in making change or deposits and other small business owners
still use cash to make large supply purchases. All of these and
other scenarios create a situation where small business is exposed to the
potential of civil forfeiture seizures.

UPDATE: House Bill 4629 has passed the House and been reported from the Senate Judiciary Committee. It is now on the Senate floor awaiting further action.

Related Content: Issues | State | Michigan | Property Rights

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