Update: This bill was signed into law on May 25, 2017.
Civil asset forfeiture, the practice that gives law enforcement the power to seize property from someone who has not been convicted of a crime, allows Tennessee law enforcement agencies to rake in over $14 million each year. Often, law enforcement doesn’t even pursue criminal charges in these instances. Our state’s current civil asset forfeiture laws are so broad that they encourage policing for profit, turning our Tennessee’s roads and highways into unchecked profit centers.
This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee and House Civil Justice Committee will take up legislation that would be an important first step to reform our state’s unfair current civil asset forfeiture laws by increasing government transparency about the practice.
SB 644/HB 813, sponsored by Sen. Jon Lundberg and Rep. Bud Hulsey, would increase civil asset forfeiture reporting requirements. As amended, this bill would expand the detail in an annual report issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety about civil asset forfeiture and require that the report include specific information about each law enforcement agency in the state.
Expanding the reporting requirements will help hold law enforcement departments accountable and increase government transparency. By ensuring that Tennesseans are aware of civil asset forfeiture’s extent and prevalence in their local communities and allowing for meaningful evaluation of the practice, this bill would help restore public confidence in law enforcement.
Tell members of the House Criminal Justice Committee that transparency is essential for Tennesseans to be aware of the extent and prevalence of Tennessee’s unfair civil asset forfeiture laws.
Sample Message to Legislators
SUBJ: Vote Yes on SB 644/HB 813
I am writing to urge you to support SB 644/HB 813 which would be a good first step in increasing transparency awareness about Tennessee’s civil asset forfeiture practices.
SB 644/HB 813, as amended, would expand the Tennessee Department of Safety’s annual reporting to include civil asset forfeiture information for each law enforcement agency in the state.
This bill would will ensure that Tennesseans are aware of civil asset forfeiture’s extent and prevalence in their local communities and will allow for meaningful evaluation of this practice. Additionally, this amended bill would increase government transparency and hold law enforcement agencies accountable, helping to restore public confidence in law enforcement.
Transparency is essential for Tennesseans to be aware of the extent and prevalence of unfair civil asset forfeiture laws in our state. This legislation would be a good first step in increasing awareness about this practice.
Please support SB 644/HB 813. Thank you.