In yet another case of police abuse of civil asset forfeiture laws, the office of the Michigan State Attorney General announced last week the filing of seven felony charges against a former police officer for his alleged embezzlement of $68,000 in asset forfeiture funds. The case has renewed calls to reform the existing civil asset forfeiture laws and stop the current practice of seizing civil assets for profit in the guise of fighting crime.
Sean Boucher, 45, was a detective at the Hazel Park Police Department when he allegedly used profits from seized civil assets as a personal enterprise between 2013 to 2017. He resigned from service in September 2017. Before resigning, he was originally put under administrative leave and then suspended by the police department a day later.
Michigan State Attorney General Dana Nessel said the Warren resident turned himself in at the Michigan State Police post in Oak Park on Wednesday. He will be arraigned at 43rd District Court in Ferndale on seven charges: five counts of embezzlement of more than $50 as a public official, embezzlement between $50,000 and $100,000, and conducting a criminal enterprise.
If convicted, the defendant faces up to 20 years imprisonment and a penalty of up to $100,000.
Cases of asset forfeiture abuse by police has prompted civil liberties advocates to call for sweeping reforms in forfeiture laws across states. In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union said that while forfeiture was originally presented as a way to cripple large-scale criminal activity, seizures are now motivated by profit rather than crime fighting. “Police abuse of civil asset forfeiture laws has shaken our nation’s conscience,” the ACLU said on the subject.
The ACLU focused its criticism on the power of the police under civil forfeiture laws to seize—and then keep or sell—any property they allege is involved in a crime. “With the total value of property seized increasing every year, calls for reform are growing louder,” the statement continued. The ACLU’s Civil Liberties Reform Project has been at the forefront of organizations asking to reform the civil asset forfeiture laws.
Police Chief Brian Buchholz of the Hazel Park Police Department commended the FBI Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force for its work on this particular case. For several years, the task force investigated the case until finally finding enough evidence against the suspect.
Buchholz likewise appealed to the public to keep trusting the police. As soon as charges were filed, the police department issued a public statement highlighting the accomplishments of the police in fighting crime and commending police officers who serve the city with honor and dignity.
Michigan Law allows seized funds and property used in a criminal act to be transferred to police and used to support law enforcement operations through training, equipment and other resources. Delays and entailing costs in bringing forfeiture cases to trial often discourage owners of seized properties to reclaim them.
Civil liberties advocates claim that abuse of civil forfeiture laws in the United States is a major law enforcement issue and must be addressed through legislation. Police departments across the United States have been accused of using civil asset forfeiture to generate revenue, also known as “policing for profit.”
Federal Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney
Have police or seized your property using civil forfeiture? Do you need help getting it back? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation and work with an experienced civil asset forfeiture attorney. There are no attorney fees in cash seizure cases unless your funds are recovered.