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House bill would ban seizing assets without criminal conviction

Flickr User Kurt Nordstrom

Some state lawmakers want to end the practice of allowing police agencies to seize and hold onto cash, cars, and other assets that they think might have played a role in illegal activity.

It happened about 500 times in 2016 – people who were never convicted of a crime still lost their seized property.

State Representative Peter Lucido told the state House Judiciary Committee that’s wrong. He says it’s often too expensive for people to hire an attorney to recover their seized property.

“Who’s going to go hire a lawyer in the civil proceedings if the lawyer’s going to take 2 thousand dollars to get a thousand back. Economic reality, folks.”

“What’s the state’s compelling reason, I want this committee to ask themselves, to allowing the police to strip away an individual’s property rights before they’ve had a day in court?”

Jarrett Skorup is with the Mackinac Center, a libertarian-leaning think tank. He says governments should not be allowed to do that.

“If you think people have done something wrong, that’s fine. Seize their property while you investigate. But unless you convict them of something, the state should not be able to take ownership.”

Skorop says, in many cases, an attorney can be more expensive than the value of the seized assets. The House Judiciary Committee will hold another hearing on the bill next week.