Friday, January 29, 2021

End asset forfeiture in Tennessee

Daniel Smith
By Daniel Smith, Tennessee Lookout - You are more likely to have your property taken from you by sworn law enforcement officers than burglars. In fact, in the past 10 years, police in Tennessee have taken $146.9 million in property and cash from citizens not even accused of a crime via civil asset forfeiture.

These assets are typically used to bolster police budgets for equipment and vehicle upgrades. The intended purpose of asset forfeiture was to allow police to seize items used in crimes to offset the cost of crime-fighting. It was extended over time to allow police to grab property and cash they had reason to suspect were used or would be used to commit a crime. The burden of proof falls on the individual losing their property to prove that they did not commit a crime or even intend to commit a crime. 

Civil asset forfeiture is now abused to such a large degree that even carrying a few hundred dollars with you can be construed as sufficient evidence for “intent” to commit a crime. With your property or cash considered guilty until proven innocent, it is notoriously difficult and expensive for citizens to retrieve it. 

Just think, it is nearly impossible to prove that you weren’t going to buy drugs with the $500 in your glove box, even when you have good, documented reasons for carrying the cash. (continue reading)

Daniel Smith, Ph.D. is the director of the Political Economy Research Center at MTSU.

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