For too long, our civil asset forfeiture laws have flipped the presumption of innocence on its head – forcing people to prove their innocence to the government to keep their own property.
On top of that, law enforcement gets to keep up to 100% of the proceeds. This creates perverse incentives and damages community relations, making their job harder in the long run.
According to the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm, Tennessee earns a galling D- for our state’s civil forfeiture laws. According to their findings, Tennessee law enforcement agencies seized nearly $86 million in cash between 2009 and 2014 – a figure that doesn’t include the value of physical property, suggesting that the actual value of forfeiture is even higher.
Those who commit crimes should be held accountable, and law enforcement should be able to seize property when they suspect it was used in a crime. But forfeiting of property is a serious matter, and it is essential that property owners’ due process rights are protected.