In Michigan, one of the components of criminal prosecutions, especially related to drug charges, is civil forfeiture. Many defendants charged with offenses had their money and property seized even if they were found not guilty. With new legislation signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the criminal defendant will now have a higher chance of protecting their assets.
The new legislation will prevent assets taken in suspected drug crimes from being forfeited unless the defendant is convicted or the value of the money and property is more than $50,000, excluding the cost of contraband. A conviction or guilty plea will not be required in instances where no one claims an interest in the property, the owner allows the forfeiture or a defendant has been charged but cannot be located or extradited to Michigan. The reason for the $50,000 threshold has been established due to accusations of more significant distribution cases. To gather insight on this law, we spoke to some of the top criminal defense lawyers in our state to obtain their commentary.
Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has created a firm that is known as the top in the state of Michigan. When asked his thoughts, Grabel stated, “Many times in these cases, our firm has taken over after the period of a forfeiture filing had passed. Our goals are not only to protect the freedom of the defendant but also to protect their economic interest and not to be restrained due to a lack of filing by a previous attorney. When we take on a client, we want to protect them in every way possible. The new law will afford us that opportunity.”
William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. Amadeo is known as one of the most aggressive criminal lawyers in the state of Michigan and was quoted as saying, “Geography is so important in his situation. In a county such as Washtenaw, if you are dealing with someone as knowledgeable as an Arianne Slay, you understand that her job is to protect the community while being fair to your client. In many other counties, there is a presumption of guilt on all levels and no respect for the economics of the defendant. You need to know the layout of the land when you take on a case with forfeiture involved.”
Lane Zabawa is an up and coming criminal defense attorney in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and has a stellar reputation with his career as a civil litigator. When asked for commentary, Zabawa said, “Many times when I take on a capital case, the defendant is almost as concerned about their assets as their freedom. The family of the defendant should not suffer economically because of a criminal charge against their loved one. The new legislation is a step in the direction of protecting the assets of those accused of criminal activity.”
While the new law has been met with great controversy, the talented criminal defense lawyer will now have another avenue to protect the interests of their client. The further protection will allow greater focus on preserving one’s constitutional rights as opposed to the concern of the defendant’s bank account.