Small Business Supports Further Civil Forfeiture Reforms

Date: February 08, 2016 Last Edit: February 17, 2016

Small business owners in Michigan want to see more reforms
of the state’s “civil asset forfeiture” laws that would restrict the seizure of private property according to a survey by the National Federation of
Independent Business (NFIB). Last year, Governor Snyder signed legislation that
included new reporting provisions to track civil asset forfeiture seizures and
also raised the standard of proof for seizing assets from a “preponderance of
the evidence” to a higher “clear and convincing” standard. NFIB supports the changes
but says that its small business 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 assets and the government (typically police departments) often
pockets the proceeds while providing no prompt way to get a court to review the
seizure,” said NFIB State Director
Charlie Owens. “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.”

Owens
said that a recent survey of NFIB small business members found that they
support taking the reforms further. Specifically, when asked: “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 business owners said “Yes”, 12 percent said “No” and 14
percent were “Undecided”.

“We
applaud Governor Snyder and the Legislature for passing much needed reforms to Michigan’s civil asset forfeiture laws last
year,” said Owens.
“However, the current laws still lack due process and need to be changed so
that private property is seized only after a criminal
conviction is secured”.

Owens
said that NFIB is also encouraged by 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
bill is currently in the House Committee on
Oversight and Ethics.

“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”, said Owens. “All of these and
other scenarios create a situation where small business is exposed to the
potential of civil forfeiture seizures”.

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