Sunday, May 9, 2021

State legislature passes Civil Asset Forfeiture reform

by Rod Williams - While I wish Tennessee would impose an outright ban on Civil Assess Forfeiture, I am, nevertheless, thankful for halfway measures. The State legislature has passed and sent to the governor HB1254 which authorizes a person to seek attorney’s fees in a civil asset forfeiture case when the claim is brought in a contested case hearing. This would allow individuals who wrongfully had their property seized to recover damages up to $10,000 and removes the 25% value cap. Under current law, damages are capped at 25% of the value of the cash or property up to $3,000. The governor should sign this bill.  

While I am generally pro-law enforcement, often the police like laws like civil asset forfeiture and other measures that make policing easier.  Policing is easier in a police state.  We should not have a knee-jerk reaction to "support the police," when supporting the police means disregarding civil liberties.  

Of course, policing is easier if police can operate under the premise of "guilty until proven innocent."  It is also easier if police can conduct searches without a warrant or beat confessions out of suspects. There is nothing "conservative" about supporting policing tactics that fly in the face of basic constitutionally protected liberties.  

Civil asset foreclosure allows the police to seize assets if they suspect the asset, such as cash and cars, are used in a criminal enterprise.  To recover the seized asset one must prove they are innocent. This is just wrong. 

For more on Civil Asset Forfeiture, see the following:
Campaign to End Civil Asset Forfeiture in Tennessee 

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