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 police 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.
SB 316/HB 421, sponsored by Sen. Todd Gardenhire and Rep. Martin Daniel, reforms forfeiture procedures by requiring a conviction for the underlying criminal charge before assets can be seized, raising the burden of proof law enforcement must meet in order to seize property, allowing property owners to try to get their property back sooner than they can under current law, and requiring that any proceeds from asset forfeitures be deposited in the state general fund.
Tying forfeiture to criminal convictions and strengthening the burden of proof required to forfeit property would protect the due process rights of Tennesseans and ensure that forfeiture is used as it was intended — to target people who have actually committed crimes.
Depositing forfeiture proceeds into a general fund rather than law enforcement coffers would remove the direct profit motive from civil asset forfeiture and help restore public confidence in law enforcement.