Michigan’s forfeiture laws must change to protect the innocent

Jaw-dropping is the only way to describe the testimony given by Ginnifer Hency, a mother of four children, delivered to the Michigan House Judiciary Committee in June. She recounted the nightmare her family experienced when her home was raided and looted by the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department in July 2014.

Deputies took whatever they could, according to Hency. "They’ve had my stuff for 10 months now," Hency told the committee. "My ladders, my iPads, my children’s iPads, my children’s phones, my medicine for my patients. Why a ladder? Why my vibrator? I don’t know, either. Why TVs?"

Hency, a registered medical marijuana patient and caregiver, was targeted because the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department because she was out of compliance with Michigan’s medical marijuana laws. She noted that police did not seize any of the equipment she uses to grow medical marijuana, but they took items that in no way related to her operation.

Though Hency initially faced possession and distribution charges, a district court judge dismissed them in May. After the judge’s ruling, Hency visited the prosecutor’s office and asked how she could get her property back.

"The prosecutor came out to me and said, ‘Well, I can still beat you in civil court. I can still take your stuff,’" she recalled. "I was at a loss. I literally just sat there dumbfounded. I was just assuming we’d setup a time and I would be able get my stuff back."

Hency was operating inside the bounds of Michigan’s medical marijuana law, and the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department wrongly targeted her. Needless to say, her family should get their property back. But under Michigan’s current civil asset forfeiture laws, Hency may never see her stuff again.