Bennis v. Michigan

Bennis v. Michigan, 516 U.S. 442 (1996), was a decision by the United States Supreme Court, which held that the innocent owner defense is not constitutionally mandated by Fourteenth Amendment Due Process in cases of civil forfeiture.

Bennis v. Michigan
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued November 29, 1995
Decided March 4, 1996
Full case nameTina B. Bennis v. Michigan
Citations516 U.S. 442 (more)
116 S. Ct. 994; 134 L. Ed. 2d 68
Case history
PriorMich ex rel. Prosecutor v. Bennis, 447 Mich. 719, 527 N.W.2d 483 (1994)
The forfeiture order did not offend the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
Court membership
Chief Justice
William Rehnquist
Associate Justices
John P. Stevens · Sandra Day O'Connor
Antonin Scalia · Anthony Kennedy
David Souter · Clarence Thomas
Ruth Bader Ginsburg · Stephen Breyer
Case opinions
MajorityRehnquist, joined by O'Connor, Scalia, Thomas, Ginsburg
DissentStevens, joined by Souter, Breyer


Tina B. Bennis was a joint owner, with her husband, of an automobile. Detroit police arrested her husband, John Bennis, after observing him engaged in a sexual act with a prostitute in the automobile while it was parked on a Detroit city street. In declaring the automobile forfeit as a public nuisance under Michigan's statutory abatement scheme, the trial court permitted no offset for petitioner's interest despite her lack of knowledge of her husband's activity. The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed but was, in turn, reversed by the Michigan Supreme Court, which concluded, among other things, that Michigan's failure to provide an innocent owner defense was without federal constitutional consequence under this Court's decisions.[citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  • Beatty, M. E. (1996). "Bennis v. Michigan: The Supreme Court Clings to Precedent and Denies Innocent Owners a Defense to Forfeiture". Mercer Law Review. 48: 1265. ISSN 0025-987X.
  • Ingram, R. T. (1996). "The Crime of Property: Bennis v. Michigan and the Excessive Fines Clause". Denver University Law Review. 74: 293. ISSN 0883-9409.
  • Levy, Robert A.; Mellor, William H. (2008). "Asset Forfeiture Without Due Process". The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom. New York: Sentinel. pp. 143–154. ISBN 978-1-59523-050-8.

External linksEdit

Text of Bennis v. Michigan, 516 U.S. 442 (1996) is available from: Cornell  Findlaw  Justia  Library of Congress  Oyez (oral argument audio)