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Gov. Snyder signs new civil forfeiture bill

The criminal justice system in Michigan grants people charged with a crime the presumption of innocence. The burden is on prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty.

This standard of proof is intended to keep people from going to jail or prison based on flimsy or dubious evidence. But in many states, the same is not true for an accused person’s property. Police forces often have the power to seize valuables, including cash, automobiles and other assets, if officers believe the items were involved in a crime. And even if the owner is acquitted or never charged, it can be very difficult for him or her to get his or her property returned.

For example, here in Michigan, to even contest the seizure of your property, you needed to pay a bond of between $250 and $5,000 -- more money than a lot of us have on hand. And law enforcement agencies were not required to return that money to you, even if you were never convicted of a crime.

That is soon to change, after Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill changing how these police seizures work. Once the law takes effect, people will not have to pay to contest seizure of their property. Instead, they will have to fill out a form within 20 days of the seizure for a chance to convince the court to return their property, according to the Traverse City Record Eagle.

“If I’m presumed innocent, what right do you have to take my property?” asked state Rep. Peter Lucido, who sponsored the bill.

Police often seize property during investigations into alleged drug crimes. Drug charges often carry serious potential consequences, most importantly incarceration. That is why it is so important that your defense attorney have the skills and dedication necessary to help you reach the best possible result to your case.

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