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What are my rights when the police forfeit my property?

Property is mostly seized under Michigan's Controlled Substance Act, which broadly defines what property may be seized. The statute states: "Any thing of value that is furnished or intended to be furnished in exchange for a controlled substance...that is traceable to an exchange for a controlled substance...or that is used or intended to be used to facilitate any violation of this article." The law gives officials wide latitude to determine what property to seize.

In addition to a warrant, there are circumstances where officials can seize property. The law allows the police to seize property: "(a) Incident to a lawful arrest...(c)There is probable cause to believe that the property is directly or indirectly dangerous to health or safety. (d) There is probable cause to believe that the property was used or is intended to be used in violation of this article or section 17766a.

Above all else, when challenging a forfeiture, time is critical. After receiving a forfeiture notice, the person challenging the forfeiture only has 20 days to file a written claim in the property and post the required bond. The bond has to be 10% of the value of the claimed property, but not less than $250 or more than $5,000. For example, if the property is only worth $1000, then a bond of $250 must still be posted. Both the written claim and the bond have to be posted with the "local unit of government or the state". In Wayne County, generally, both have to be filed with the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office. Once the claim and bond have been posted, the Prosecutor must "promptly" bring the forfeiture proceedings before the trial court.

Cripps & Silver Law can help you through the confusion of the forfeiture provisions. It is most important to remember: If no claim is filed or bond given within the 20-day period the property is forfeited and the prosecutor will dispose of the property.

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