Police seized more than $24 million in assets from Michiganders in 2013, under asset forfeiture laws. In many cases the citizens were never charged with a crime but lost their property anyway.
Wladyslaw (Wally) Kowalski, 60, of Bloomingdale is fighting to keep his home in rural Van Buren County after police raided it in September and confiscated his marijuana plants.(Photo: Jessica J. Trevino Detroit Free Press)Buy Photo
Michigan laws allow police to seize assets even when no criminal charges are filed.
Study says Michigan is among the worst in protecting citizens from unlawful seizures by police.
Police defend seizing homes, cash, cars, insist forfeitures help fight crime, stop drug trafficking.
State, federal lawmakers introducing new bills to curb “abusive” property seizures by police.
Thomas Williams was alone that November morning in 2013 when police raided his rural St. Joseph County home, wearing black masks, camouflage and holding guns at their sides. They broke down his front door with a battering ram.
“We think you’re dealing marijuana,” they told Williams, a 72-year-old, retired carpenter and cancer patient who is disabled and carries a medical marijuana card.
When he protested, they handcuffed him and left him on the living room floor as they ransacked his home, emptying drawers, rummaging through closets and surveying his grow room, where he was nourishing his 12 personal marijuana plants as allowed by law. Some had recently begun to die, so he had cloned them and had new seedlings, although they were not yet planted. That, police insisted, put him over the limit.
They did not charge Williams with a crime, though.
Instead, they took his Dodge Journey, $11,000 in cash from his home, his television, his cell phone, his shotgun and are attempting to take his Colon Township home. And they plan to keep the proceeds, auctioning off the property and putting the cash in police coffers.
DETROIT FREE PRESS
Michigan ranks among the worst in civil asset forfeitures
More than a year later, he is still fighting to get his belongings back and to hang on to his house.
“I want to ask them, ‘Why? Why me?’ I gave them no reason to do this to me,” said Williams, who says he also suffers from glaucoma, a damaged disc in his back, and COPD, a lung disorder. “I’m out here minding my own business, and just wanted to be left alone.”
The seizure was …Read More