Policing for Profit: The Shocking Cost of Civil Asset Forfeiture
In Tennessee every year, law enforcement agents seize millions of dollars from civilians during traffic stops and other encounters, simply by asserting that they believe any assets they find are connected to some illegal activity, oftentimes without ever pursuing criminal charges.
Civil asset forfeiture was originally presented as a way to cripple large-scale criminal enterprises by diverting their resources. But today, aided by deeply flawed federal and state laws, many police departments use forfeiture to benefit their bottom lines, turning Tennessee interstates and highways into major profit centers for law enforcement agencies.
While ACLU-TN has successfully lobbied for commonsense limits on civil forfeiture, this exploitative practice still stacks the deck against property owners, essentially requiring them to prove their innocence to gain back their belongings. For people whose property has been seized through civil asset forfeiture, legally regaining such property is notoriously difficult and expensive, with costs sometimes exceeding the value of the property.
With the total value of property seized increasing every year, and over $13 million seized in Tennessee in 2014 alone, calls for reform are growing louder, and ACLU of Tennessee is leading the way in the fight to end civil forfeiture.
If you or a loved one has had your property unfairly seized by law enforcement officers in Tennessee, we’d like to hear from you. Please click the link to fill out the form and tell us your story.
ACLU Blog of Rights posts
“There is Bipartisan Agreement on the ‘Uncivility’ of Civil Asset Forfeiture” by Kanya Bennett, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office & Nkechi Taifa, Senior Policy Analyst, Open Society Foundations
Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture (The Institute for Justice)
“Tennessee’s civil asset forfeiture system: Unfair and broken,” Hedy Weinberg and Justin Owen, op-ed, The Memphis Commercial Appeal, March 2016
“ACLU-TN Launches Civil Forfeiture Campaign in Time for Holiday Travel,” ACLU-TN press release, December 2015
“Tennessee Seized Property Law Still Under Scrutiny,” Calvin Sneed for NewsChannel 9, January 2015
“Policing for profit in Tennessee,” The Washington Post, November 2014
“Groups Push New ‘Policing For Profit’ Reforms,” Phil Williams for NewsChannel 5, December 2014
“NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Policing for Profit, Part 1,” Phil Williams for NewsChannel5, 6 part series, video clips