Yesterday, the Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee demonstrated bold legislative initiative by unexpectedly voting a slew of civil asset forfeiture reform bills out of committee.

The committee heard testimonies from national advocacy organizations on both sides of the aisle as well as law enforcement. Although there was some token opposition from state law enforcement, seven of the eight bills passed the committee unanimously.

At the hearing, US Justice Action Network Executive Director Holly Harris explained the convoluted history of asset forfeiture in America,

Centuries ago, civil asset forfeiture was actually used as a means to seize assets from pirates.  In the 1980s, asset forfeiture was expanded to seize assets from international drug kingpins.  But now, law enforcement is using civil asset forfeiture to seize cars and cash from average citizens who are never even charged with crimes.  And here in Michigan, far too many innocent property owners have found themselves entangled in a flawed process…We are a long way from pirates and kingpins.

Jorge Marin, Criminal Justice Specialist at Americans for Tax Reform, also congratulated the Michigan Association of Police Organizations for their endorsement of the proposals,

Fortunately, this is a uniting issue. The Michigan Association of Police Organizations understands full well that bad laws reflect poorly on the vast majority of police officers; men and women who genuinely want to protect their communities and have done so with distinction.  The Package of laws under consideration would strengthen the reporting requirements for forfeitures. This would be a massive step in the right direction.

He further explained the importance of protecting the due process of law and how civil asset forfeiture laws infringe upon that,

You may be wondering what taxes have to do with civil asset forfeiture. Simply put, tax reform is simply a means to an end: the end being the protection and expansion of individual freedom. For this reason we have flagged asset forfeiture as an egregious threat to due process and legislative accountability of the nation’s crucial police force and their budgets.

Yesterday ATR released an official endorsement of Michigan’s civil asset forfeiture legislation.

After being asked about what the federal government was doing with respects to asset forfeiture by an ill-fated prosecutor, Committee Chairman Rick Jones shot back “this is state government, sir,” demonstrating how the states are leading on this issue despite what the federal government is doing.

Americans for Tax Reform is supportive of the Senate Judiciary Committee decision to move forward with this legislation. We urge state legislators across the country to take Michigan’s lead.