Monday, November 25, 2013

Bennis v. Michigan case brief

Bennis v. Michigan case brief summary
516 U.S. 442 (1996)

Petitioner challenged the judgment of the Supreme Court of Michigan, which reversed a court of appeals judgment reversing the trial court's judgment abating petitioner's automobile to respondent, the State of Michigan, without compensation since it was used in criminal activity without her consent or knowledge.

Petitioner's husband engaged in illegal criminal activity in their automobile, which was jointly owned. After the husband's arrest and conviction, the State brought an action to seize the automobile under the State's forfeiture laws.

The trial court granted judgment to the State and refused to give a portion of the value of the automobile to petitioner for her interest. Petitioner appealed the judgment, and the court affirmed.


  • The court held that a long line of cases upheld a State's right to seize instruments of criminal activity, even though the owner was innocent of any crime or wrong doing. 
  • The court determined that seizing petitioner's car did not violate the U.S. Constitutional amendment XIV's Due Process Clause or the Taking Clause. 
  • The count concluded that the State properly followed court precedent, and petitioner was not entitled to recover the automobile or her portion of the value.

The court affirmed the judgment and held that respondent was entitled to take petitioner's automobile by forfeiture even though she was innocent of any crime and did not have any knowledge that it would be used illegally.

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