[Ed. – States need to get rid of this practice entirely. It’s a moral hazard the size of the Grand Canyon. Emphasis added.]
Gerald and Royetta Ostipow had no idea what civil asset forfeiture was until sheriff’s deputies arrived at their farm in rural Michigan and seized and then sold the couple’s property. The Ostipows were required to provide a $150,000 cash bond before they could begin the legal proceedings to contest the forfeiture and get their property back. But they couldn’t afford to.
An appeals court later overturned the Ostipow’s hefty bond requirement, a move the legislature has now followed in a reform signed into law in January. But the ruling didn’t stop the nightmare for the couple who were never charged with a crime. They still had to win a court case seeking the return of hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of property taken from the Ostipow’s rural Michigan home, including a cherished classic car.
Eventually, an appeals court found that the property was wrongly forfeited. But it was too later to recover the car. With the odometer mysteriously bearing an additional 56,000 miles, police had already sold the car and spent the proceeds. …
Every state should join Nebraska and New Mexico in repealing civil forfeiture altogether, allowing only a criminal court to transfer personal property to the government, and only after the owner of the property has been convicted of a crime.