Last year, law enforcement in Wayne County, Michigan seized the property of 380 people and never gave it back even though those people were not charged with any crime. This type of seizure happened more times in Wayne County than in the rest of Michigan’s counties combined.
The property was taken using a procedure known as civil asset forfeiture. This is a legal process where law enforcement may seize an individual’s assets—including cash, a vehicle, or even a home—if it is suspected of being involved in a crime. In most states, criminal charges do not need to be filed for property to be taken.