NASHVILLE (Nov. 3, 2015) – Tennessee has joined the growing number of states considering reforming state asset forfeiture laws.
Last week, the state Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the matter, and law enforcement lobbyists predictably showed up in force to defend their ability to “police for profit.”
Current Tennessee asset forfeiture laws allow state and local law enforcement agencies to take assets allegedly related to criminal activity and keep the proceeds, even absent a criminal conviction.
The Institute for Justice gives Tennessee asset forfeiture laws a D-.
Tennessee has broad civil forfeiture laws that fail to protect the rights of property owners. There, the government must establish by only a preponderance of the evidence that property is related to a crime and subject to forfeiture. Tennessee also effectively presumes owners are guilty, as the property owner bears the burden of proof for innocent owner claims. And, while it cannot be used to supplement salaries, local drug enforcement nonetheless keeps 100 percent of property forfeited, and there is no requirement to collect or report data on the use of forfeiture or its proceeds in Tennessee.
According to an AP report, Shelby County prosecutor Steve Jones laughably called this process “government at its very best,” and trotted out the standard “crime will increase” scare tactic.
“If you want to make a difference for our communities, take away criminal proceeds forfeiture funding,” he said. “You’ll make a huge difference; it just won’t be a positive difference. The criminals…