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Michigan State Police Defend Asset Forfeiture Laws As ‘Critical’ Tool

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Michigan State Police defend asset forfeiture laws as ‘critical’ tool, open to reforms

Posted 5:55 PM, May 12, 2015 

by Josh Sidorowicz

LANSING, Mich. — Lawmakers on Tuesday debated bills aimed at reforming Michigan’s civil asset forfeiture laws to make it more difficult for police to seize property from individuals suspected of being involved in criminal activity.

It’s an issue showing up in headlines across the country and here in Michigan, where police take money, property and even entire homes from individuals, in many cases before that person has ever been charged with a crime. Just this week, the story of a 22-year-old from Michigan made national headlines after DEA agents seized $16,000 in cash from him while he was riding on an Amtrak train to Los Angeles. He was not detained or charged with a crime,the Albuquerque Journal reported.


In Michigan, more than $24 million in cash and assets were seized from Michiganders in 2013, according to the most recent asset forfeiture reportavailable from Michigan State Police.


Since 2000, more than $250 million in forfeiture revenue has been collected by Michigan law enforcement agencies.


Tuesday during a House Judiciary Committee hearing, lawmakers explained why increased transparency and uniformity in reporting of forfeitures by law enforcement is needed.


Rep. Jeff Irwin, who has been pushing for several years to reform the state’s forfeiture laws said more inform reporting would provide a clearer picture of how police are using the law and who they’re using it against.


“If you’ve got folks out there that are medical marijuana patients… there’s no way they should be getting raided and having police come in with masks and guns drawn and taking their assets,” Irwin said.


“But what I hear from the police is ‘we need this tool to take down crack dealers outside the elementary school peddling to kids,’ so which is it?”


Sgt. Amy Dehner, an 11 year veteran with the Michigan State Police, testified Tuesday before the committee and said the practice is critical in the process to stop drug trafficking.


“As long as that cash and those assets continue to flow, whether they can sell a car, a house, stolen TVs, if they can turn that into cash, they continue to allow that illegal business to flourish,” she said. “Our ability to intercede in that


process is critical.


Following the hearing, Dehner told FOX 17 she doesn’t agree with the assessment that individuals who have had their assets seized through forfeiture laws are being treated ‘guilty until proven innocent.’

“I think that’s largely the view of the media and trying cases in the papers,” she said. “To say someone is guilty before they go to court is not something the police engage in.”


Dehner acknowledged defendants in asset forfeiture cases have to prove their innocence, rather than the burden being on the government or the state to prove the individual is guilty. When asked if that seemed to contradict the standard ‘presumption of innocence’ generally followed in the justice system, she said the standards for civil asset forfeitures are different from other standards prosecutors and law enforcement follow.


The package of bills making its way through the legislature in Lansing would also raise the standards for evidence by requiring it be ‘clear and convincing.’ Currently, police agencies only need a ‘preponderance’ of evidence that can prove ‘more probable than not’ that illegal activity is taking place.


In February, Wally Kowalski of Van Buren County told FOX 17 his home had been raided by the Michigan State Police before he had ever been charged with a crime.

Kowalski, who has a Ph.D from Penn State University and a background in engineering and specializes in ultraviolet light technology, has been a medical marijuana card holder for several years. He was growing the drug for medicinal use for himself and several designated patients at a home that’s been in his family for decades when it was raided by the Michigan State Police’s Southwestern Enforcement Team in September 2014.


Nationally, civil asset net forfeitures rose to $4.2 billion in 2012, which was up from $1.7 billion in the preceding year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Michigan, introduced reform legislation of his own earlier this year dubbed the FAIR Act, that would restore the Fifth Amendment’s role in civil forfeiture proceedings.


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Sgt Dehner is one of the main ones that goes after the MMMAct.


Isnt she just adorable.


“To say someone is guilty before they go to court is not something the police engage in.”



And then...


Dehner acknowledged defendants in asset forfeiture cases have to prove their innocence, rather than the burden being on the government or the state to prove the individual is guilty.




Doesn't she just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?



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Former OMNI leader Luke Davis used his drug task force to steal from Monroe county residents for years after a long investigation by State police he was eventually arrested and charged with racketeering.



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New and different things to stop it are going on all the time. It is a battle, and they are very married to their weapon. Who really knows how to stop it? They are not ready to stop fighting, as you can see from the original post.


I do know precisely what I am doing to help try to stop it, most don't have any idea what to do; those that have an idea certainly can't be sure it will work. Others complain and say it is hopeless, and don't bother even to support those trying.


Because it hadn't happen to them yet

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Then why do we allow it for year after year  trying the same thing over and over to stop it?

not to be  offending but antipathy overwhelmes me ...


If,  'we' had anything to say about it, assuredley there would be many changes to the over reach of the Police. Another area of abuse by law enforcement is not just misappropriating property  but life itself. The paramilitary techniques employed on the streets of our country since the early 70s including but not limited to and involving the prevalant method of unjustified and excessive deadly force to increase the chances of mortality.  When did it become acceptable to assasinate someone instead of just wounding or incapacitating an unarmed individual. (ie: expending an entire magazine, for one suspect) Well guess what? ...it's not. As well, neither are the majority of these siezures. 
    And the common denominator seems to revolve around the same laws regarding siezures, as alluded to in this snippit from Tenn v Garner:
"... The Court of Appeals held that the killing of a fleeing suspect is a "seizure" for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment, and is therefore constitutional only when it is reasonable. The court then found that based on the facts in this case, the Tennessee statute failed to properly limit the use of deadly force by reference to the seriousness of the felony. "
...Suppose it's just another indicator of the increasing water temp of the proverbial boiling frogs scenario. Or maybe how fast they are hacking/attacking and beating our civil rights back to the stone age.  
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Hurray, Montana Says Cops Can’t Steal All Your Sh*t And Sell It For Cash Anymore!
Civil asset forfeiture laws around the country are fukn terrible. You know, those laws that say the cops can take your car, your money, and anything else you own, just because they THINK it might could have been used in a crime, even if you haven’t actually been convicted of that crime. Then they sell it and they get to keep all the sweet, sweet profits, to use for whatever the department wants or needs or happens to see on sale at the Big Lots. Yeah, THOSE laws. But, there is a light at the end of the asset-seizing tunnel, at least in Montana, because the nice Democratic governor up there, Steve Bullock, has signed a law, HB 463, that says you can’t be doing all that shiit anymore:
Montana’s HB 463 does away with the most controversial aspects of civil asset forfeiture, requiring police to convict a property owner of a crime before going through permanent forfeiture proceedings. The law also raises the legal threshold for forfeiture in the event of a conviction, requiring police to present “clear and convincing evidence” that the seized property is connected to criminal activity. Beyond these new regulations, the bill establishes a number of protections, such as a pretrial process, that allow owners of seized property to defend themselves against civil forfeiture.



Well, that’s just super unfair, for the police to actually have to Show Their Work, in order to steal your Prius and trade it in without your permission! The bill passed with overwhelming support, even from Republicans, so it’s nice to see everybody agreeing that this practice is bad and terrible and also horrible.


Now, the Huffington Post reports that there is still a way to get around all that, as long as you are working with the feds, because they have something called the Equitable Sharing program, so if the local po-po are working with, say, the DEA, then it’s cool, they can back the paddywagon up and fill it with all your shiit. It’s not QUITE as bad as it used to be, because state governments used to be able to use “adoptive seizures” to send seized property to the feds, “even if a federal agency hadn’t been involved in the seizure.” As we reported back in January, evil former Attorney General Eric Holder decreed from his throne that the “adoptive seizures” part of the program was going bye bye, unless you were dealing with illegal firearms, ammo, explosives or stuff involved with kiddie porn.


Of course, it turns out that part of the program only accounted for “about 25 percent of all properties seized under the program and only about 10 percent of the total value of all seizures.”


At the time of Holder’s tyrannical decree, police departments became very sad, because it’s so much fun to arrest people and rifle through all their shiit, and then sell it at the police department yard sale for fun and profit. And of course, this will probably make some of Montana’s police folks sad, but they will just have to learn to live in a world where you don’t get a new car every time you make an arrest, sadface. Or they can just use the loopholes they still have, until Montana legislators figure out how to put a stop to it, for good.


The good news? They are going to try to do just that, in the next legislative session, if the cops end up misbehaving and exploiting all those loopholes. The bad news? The Montana lege only meets every two years, so keep an eye on your Prius and your whore diamonds for now, Montanans!


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