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NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee (AFP-TN) commended lawmakers on Thursday for passing the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, (HB 2021 / SB 1987). The bill modifies civil asset forfeiture processes, adding transparency and accountability to law enforcement practices and better protecting citizens’ Constitutional rights.
“Tennesseans should not have their property seized without being charged with, or convicted of a crime,” said AFP-TN State Director Tori Venable. “This bill brings much needed reforms which should drastically curtail the practice of civil asset forfeiture. Representatives Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) and Martin Daniel (R-Knoxville) have worked tirelessly to protect Tennesseans’ property rights, placing a priority on achieving these reforms. We commend lawmakers for passing this measure unanimously and urge Governor Haslam to sign it immediately.”
Currently, Tennessee law allows cash and property to be permanently seized from owners if it can be tied to an alleged crime by a mere preponderance of the evidence. There is no requirement that anyone be charged with, much less convicted of, a crime for the forfeiture to proceed. Once a forfeiture case is resolved, law enforcement agencies in the state get to keep the proceeds of the forfeiture and spend it as additional revenue for their agencies.
This bill provides additional protections for innocent 3rd-parties, requiring notice of the probable cause seizure hearing to be given to property owners within 5 business days. In addition, the property owner would now be able to speak on behalf of their property in court.
The seizing agency must send the drug screen results to the state within 5 days upon receipt. If the item tested is found not to contain illegal drugs the civil procedure for seizure shall be immediately dismissed and property returned to the owner.
This bill also states that being caught with cash alone is not sufficient to trigger a civil asset seizure under state law. Tennesseans will have the rebuttable presumption that the cash is theirs and lawfully obtained. Attorney’s fees shall be awarded up to $3,000 for the individuals whose property was wrongly seized.
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