University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
Title "Detroit Civil Forfeiture"
Date Feb 5, 2020
Author Institute for Justice
External Link
Abstract Wayne County routinely seizes vehicles on the thinnest of pretenses—such as a car’s presence in a neighborhood known for prostitution. Without arresting anyone, officers take the car on the spot, leaving its driver on the side of the road. Without bringing criminal charges, prosecutors then put the vehicle’s owner through a procedural gauntlet designed not to get at the truth, but to ensure payment to the county or forfeiture of the vehicle. The only realistic hope that an innocent owner has of retrieving his or her vehicle is to pay a “redemption fee” of at least $900, between $100 and $300 in towing fees, and a $15/day storage fee. If the owner doesn’t pay, the property will be forfeited and sold, with the proceeds going to the county.

Detroiters Melisa Ingram and Robert Reeves know this threat all too well. Both lost their cars (and other personal property inside) when Wayne County seized them based on other people’s alleged misbehavior. In both cases, no one was arrested—including the alleged perpetrators. Yet, Wayne County seized Melisa and Robert’s vehicles, upending their lives, and has continued to hold them for months. Melisa was victimized by this program once before, when she was forced to pay $1,355 to get her car back after her boyfriend drove it into an area known by police officers for prostitution.
Source Institute for Justice

This Resource Relates To
case Ingram v. County of Wayne (PN-MI-0011)

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