Through civil forfeiture, Tennessee law enforcement takes over $12 million dollars in cash (including an undisclosed amount of property) from Tennesseans every year.
Civil forfeiture is the process by which law enforcement can take property without ever convicting or even charging you with a crime. They do this by claiming the property could be used in the commission of a crime, with no attempt to convict the individual who possesses the property. This is often used to take sums of cash, vehicles, or even houses.
In Tennessee, the Department of Safety is not required to report whether a forfeiture through this program resulted in a criminal charge (or a conviction), creating an informational black hole for lawmakers and citizens.
Also, the fact that money and property forfeited by law enforcement goes straight into law enforcement budgets, not a neutral fund, it becomes clear: our existing laws create an environment ripe for abuse.
In order to properly address any issues in our civil forfeiture system, we must have accurate information about how it works. Passing this bill will reveal much-needed truths about how much money is being forfeited and how many convictions accompany those forfeitures.
We’re happy to report that as of January 26th Representative Justin Lafferty out of Knoxville introduced HB0409. This bill requires the TN Department of Safety to disclose how many civil forfeiture cases resulted in a criminal charge or conviction.
This is a first–and much needed–step to fixing Tennessee’s broken criminal justice system.
We need your help to get this bill through committee. Join us in the fight.