Michigan House Republicans
Reps. Greene, Wozniak: Civil asset forfeiture reforms should not be ignored
RELEASE|July 1, 2024
Contact: Jaime Greene

Legislators express frustration as necessary changes are shelved indefinitely

State Reps. Jaime Greene and Doug Wozniak today expressed frustration and disappointment that the Legislature has recessed for the summer without taking up legislation to ensure funds seized through the civil asset forfeiture process are used properly.

House Bills 5382-5383, introduced by the Macomb County representatives in November 2023, would ensure that all funds and property acquired through civil asset forfeiture are properly reported and spent in a way that improves public safety.

“It is deeply disappointing that the Legislature has chosen to recess without addressing such an important issue,” said Wozniak, R-Shelby Township. “Our communities deserve transparency and accountability when it comes to the use of civil asset forfeiture funds. These reforms are crucial to restoring public trust and ensuring that funds meant to enhance public safety are not misused.”

Civil asset forfeiture was established to ensure criminals do not profit from their crimes. Law enforcement is allowed to confiscate property – things like cash, homes, and vehicles – believed to have been used in, or gained through, the commission of a crime. The entity can then keep or sell the property and use the proceeds for public safety purposes.

Current state law has flaws that leave room for corrupt public officials to misuse funds seized through civil asset forfeiture. In 2020, the former Macomb County Prosecutor was charged with embezzling and misconduct while in office, involving the misuse of civil asset forfeiture funds. Other county employees were also charged.

House Bills 5382-83 would clarify the procedure for handling civil asset forfeiture funds. The plan would require these funds to be processed the same as other revenue – through the treasurer of the unit of government involved in the forfeiture. Funds would then be set aside for public safety purposes through that local government’s budget process.

“We cannot afford to let these critical reforms fall by the wayside,” said Greene, R-Richmond. “The misuse of civil asset forfeiture funds is a gross abuse of power and undermines public confidence in our justice system. Our plan provides a clear framework for accountability and ensures that these funds are used to enhance public safety as intended.”

This spring, Greene and Wozniak sent a letter to the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, where the bills were referred, asking her to hold a hearing on the issue, but their request went unanswered. The Legislature recently recessed for the summer and is not expected to meet again until November.

“It’s outrageous that the Democrats in majority are letting this issue languish,” Greene said. “People in Macomb County and all throughout Michigan deserve better. These reforms must be a top priority. We won’t stop fighting for the accountability and transparency that the public expects and deserves.”


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