Change to Michigan Law Required to Stop Police from Seizing Your Property Without Cause

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What if the government took your car and refused to give it back?

That’s what happened to Stephen Nichols after he was caught using a fake insurance certificate during a traffic stop in Lincoln Park. He was not arrested, and later pled guilty to driving without proof of insurance – a civil infraction.

While no criminal charges were filed, Lincoln Park police still confiscated the car, alleging that the fake certificate violated the Michigan Identity Theft Protection Act (“MITPA”).


There are much larger questions about the fundamental equity of civil forfeiture. But these do not have to be addressed to correct this injustice. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office refused to set a hearing date, so the car should have been returned.

In consequence, the Michigan Legislature should require agencies to initiate a criminal case within 45 days of seizing property or return it. They should also be required to institute a forfeiture action within 20 days of a property seizure and have courts hear the case within 14 days. Notice should be given to any person or entity with an interest in the property, allowing them to argue they are the innocent owners. Only this will ensure that cases like Mr. Nichols’ do not happen again.

Read the full article at The Detroit News.