See our Best of Detroit 2020 winners.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Detroit Police can't seize your property just for committing a crime, Supreme Court rules

Posted By on Thu, Feb 21, 2019 at 1:31 PM

click to enlarge STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling

A U.S. Supreme Court's unanimous ruling Wednesday is expected to curb local and state law enforcement's ability to take ownership of cash, cars, homes and other private property used to commit a crime.

In 2017, police in Michigan seized more than $13 million in property from drug dealers under the state's civil forfeiture laws, according to the state's latest report.



Civil forfeiture is a common and controversial tool for local and state police to raise revenue for employees, vehicles, training, and supplies.

The court's decision focused on whether the value of the seized property was proportional to the crimes committed.

In this case, police in Indiana refused to return Tyson Timbs' $42,000 Land Rover after he pleaded guilty to selling $225 worth of heroin. Police claimed they had a right to keep his SUV because he used it to sell heroin.

But the Supreme Court disagreed, saying the seizure amounted to an "excessive fine," which is banned by the Eighth Amendment. The high court said the value of the SUV was "more than four times the maximum $10,000 monetary fine assessable against Timbs for his drug conviction."

The ruling, however, does not mean civil forfeitures will stop. Ultimately, judges will determine whether a forfeiture is excessive.

It's unclear what impact the ruling will have on Detroit Mayor Duggan's initiative to seize the homes of drug dealers and negligent owners.

The Detroit Police Department, which has long been criticized for relying on forfeitures for revenue, didn't respond to Metro Times request for comment.


Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.

Tags: , , , , , ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

December 2, 2020

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2020 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation