By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org
In September, police in Michigan seized cash and property from a Michigan man who was legally growing medical marijuana for himself and four other individuals.
When Wally Kowalski told his story to the media – the latest example of police using civil asset forfeiture laws to seize assets and freeze bank accounts without giving suspects much hope of legal recourse – he was awoken by police at 2 a.m. the next morning with a warrant for his arrest
He was never charged with a crime.
But when Wally Kowalski told his story to the media — the latest example of police using civil asset forfeiture laws to seize assets and freeze bank accounts without giving suspects much hope of legal recourse — he was awoken by police at 2 a.m. the next morning with a warrant for his arrest.
Anne Schieber of the Mackinac Institute’s Michigan Capital Confidential published an account of Kowalski’s ordeal last week. Kowalski told Schieber he believes police targeted him because he is a medical marijuana grower.
Police claimed to have evidence he was selling the drug to others, but he wasn’t charged with a crime for months after the September raid on his house. Kowalski denies selling the drug and is licensed to grow medical marijuana for himself and four others.
He was finally charged with a crime this week after his story was published Tuesday by Michigan Cap Con.
The police charged Kowalski with delivery and manufacture of five to 45 kilograms of marijuana, between 20 and 200 plants. The felony charge carries up to a seven year sentence and $500,000 fine, according to Schieber.
The U.S. Constitution protects Americans against the loss of property without due process. Michigan state law directs assets obtained through criminal forfeiture to fund libraries to prevent a conflict of interest where police departments could benefit directly from seizing property.
But civil asset forfeiture is big business for police in Michigan. Police departments have used the proceeds from civil asset forfeitures to pad their bottom lines by more than $250 million since 2000, according to a 2010 report by the Institute for Justice, a civil libertarian law firm.
Attorney Daniel Grow, who represents other defendants in similar cases, told Schieber that civil asset forfeiture cases can occur before, during, or after criminal prosecution because they are separate matters.
“The system is set up so that there is an incentive for the average person to resolve their claim by a plea deal,” Grow said. “Very few of these cases go to trial because they’re average people that have usually never been in trouble before and try to follow Michigan’s medical marijuana act.”
at Michigan Capitol Confidential.