Friday, February 11, 2022

End Civil Forfeiture! Now is the time! #FundThePolice and End Civil Forfeiture.

Criminal Asset Forfeiture

Civil Asset Forfeiture is the practice that allows police to seize your property if they suspect you of a crime, even if you are never actually charged with an offense. Oddly enough, the legal proceeding is against the seized property and not against the individual. For innocent people whose property has been seized through civil asset forfeiture, legally regaining such property is notoriously difficult and expensive.
  • Supreme Court Justice Clarance Thomas said that, “This system — where police can seize property with limited judicial oversight and retain it for their own use — has led to egregious and well-chronicled abuses” 
  • This threatens Tennesseans’ property and due process rights, and “frequently targets the poor and other groups least able to defend their interests in forfeiture proceedings.” 

MAJOR UPDATE from Gov. Lee’s administration
  • Apparently, Gov. Lee has given word that no agency or state department will work against civil asset forfeiture bills this year.
  • This means that we will not have to deal with the Department of Safety this year.
  • While we still must overcome local DAs, police, and sheriffs, this is a massive win for CAF even before we start determining the level of support for change this year.
    • Did you all know that in the state of Tennessee there are tons of taxpayer funded lobbyists?
      • I kid you not.
      • Dozens and dozens of people paid by you and I that are lobbying each day for and against bills that may or may not be in our best interests.
      • The lobbyists are there on behalf of the particular department they represent.
      • Let's say you have a bill you really like... maybe someone in the department of safety really doesn't like it... well... they just send down their lobbyist to meet with all the legislators and give testimony in committee to work against the bill you hope might pass.
      • Regardless of whether you agree with the position of the particular governmental department or not doesn't matter... the point is that WE ARE PAYING THE SALARY OF THOSE PEOPLE. THEY ARE NOT ELECTED.
      • Moreover, most of the time those taxpayer funded, department representative, lobbyist are the most influential people in the building.
      • Let me put it this way... someone that IS NOT a representative of the people has far more influence over your representative than you do... that fact by itself isn't crazy to believe... now consider that YOU ARE PAYING FOR IT... LITERALLY.

Bills running this year
  • HB 59 / SB 260 – Removes the requirement to pay $350 per item seized just to have your day in court.
    • This bill passed through every major step needed in the house and senate last year; however, it did not receive the funding needed to become law.
    • This bill is still stuck "behind the budget" in finance subcommittee from last year.
    • Luckily we don't have to gather votes in subcommittee and committee, but we will need to press the finance subcommittee to get funding.
  • HB 2427 / SB 2280 – Reporting bill; adds information to the list of things DOS must report at the end of each calendar year. Ex: demographic information, type of seizure, whether the seizure ended in a criminal conviction, etc.
    • This is a similar bill to the one that ran last year. It did not do too well last year because Department of Safety fought us every step of the way.
    • Hopefully, this year DOS will not fight the bill due to Gov. Lee's new directive.
  • HB 2525 / SB 2545 – Comprehensive overhaul of our forfeiture process in TN. The big pieces include… requiring a criminal conviction before property can be forfeited, dealing with the equitable sharing federal loophole, and ending the administrative court system process.
    • This is the model language provided by Lee McGrath, Senior Counsel at the Institute For Justice.
    • This is the best possible version of a forfeiture bill.

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