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Police urge Gov. Whitmer to veto civil asset forfeiture bills

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Some members of law enforcement hope Governor Gretchen Whitmer vetoes legislation headed for her desk.

The Legislature passed bills to change the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws on Thursday. The bills would require a criminal conviction before law enforcement can keep a person’s property worth less than $50,000. Law enforcement only needs probable cause in order to take it.

Bob Stevenson is the executive director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police. He says there are times when police will find money and some evidence of drug dealing – but no drugs. Stevenson says that’s not enough for a conviction, but the money was clearly proceeds from drug activity.

“We’re going back to the bad old days of the 80’s. The reason that criminal forfeiture and asset forfeiture came about was to try to take the profit out of drug dealing and we’re putting it right back in again,” he says.

Supporters say there should be a conviction before police can keep a person’s property. They say it’s a due process issue.

Senator Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Township) is a bill sponsor. He’s been working on these changes since he was first a representative in 2015.

“That was my number one bill I entered when I came up to this place. I saw the injustices done, I want to fix it, and I also said it’s time for making a change,” he says.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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