In Tennessee, law enforcement agencies can use civil asset forfeiture to seize the cash you are carrying, the car you drive, or even the house you live in.
Tennesseans lack protections that residents of many other states take for granted, but proposed legislation may change the standards – and the incentives – for civil asset forfeiture.
While millennials may not always carry cash, we risk being targets of civil asset forfeiture. Our generation is not expected to have lawyers on speed dial or the resources to pay attorney fees.
Civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement officials to seize property, without convicting or even charging the property owner with a crime. In Tennessee, 100 percent of the proceeds can go to state and local police, some agencies even depend on seizures to fund their budget.
Under HB 421 the state:
• Establishes new procedures for seizure and forfeiture of assets;
• Requires conviction before forfeiture can occur; and
• Requires clear and convincing evidence that the property was involved in the crime.
Our state lawmakers should vote to change these law, because innocent until proven guilty must be standard.
Tennessee must defend innocent citizens and provide law enforcement officials with the tools they need to protect and serve our communities.
Fortunately, HB 421 provides guidelines for handling forfeited cash and selling property so that all proceeds from asset forfeiture at deposited in the state general fund. Law enforcement agencies should be funded transparently, through state and local budgets.
Civil asset forfeiture turns our judicial system on its head and must end. Ask your representatives to end civil asset forfeiture here.