New Changes to the Criminal Asset Forfeiture Process in TennesseeCriminal asset seizure is a law enforcement tool that allows the government to take the property that is owned by those accused of committing crimes. Criminal asset seizure or forfeiture is usually conducted related to the possession of narcotics. Law enforcement can seize money, vehicles, home or other property related to the commission of a crime. The purported reason for seizing the property of those committing crimes is to make sure that the property can no longer be used for committing crimes, but the practice is also meant to be a deterrent to discourage criminal activity.

For example, if someone is manufacturing illegal drugs in their home, and they are arrested and charged, law enforcement can seize the home and property. The officer seizing the property is required to give a Notice of Property Seizure form to the person who owns the property, which informs them that the property has been seized. The officer must then take the Notice of Property Seizure form to a judge and provide probable cause for the seizure of the property. If the judge agrees that the officer had probable cause, they will sign the Forfeiture Warrant.

What some people might not know is that law enforcement can keep the assets that they seize from convicted criminals and their enterprises. If a law enforcement agency seizes a home that was used for drug activity, they can sell the house and the proceeds go to their budget.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recounts the story of a disabled American Veteran who was living in Nashville whose car was seized because the police alleged that his son had used his car to drive to locations where drug deals were taking place. The police seized the vehicle without a warrant or a hearing according to the article, which discussed law enforcement’s incentive to abuse civil asset forfeiture because the proceeds go right into their budgets. The story also highlights the incremental progress being made in Tennessee to reform asset forfeiture.

As of October 2018, property owners will be given reasonable notice of forfeiture warrant hearings, and the officer who seized the property will have to prove that the property is subject to seizure rather than the property owner being required to prove that their property was not used in committing a crime.

A story in the Times Free Press about a bill limiting law enforcement’s use of civil asset forfeiture reports that the new law will ensure that there are no more “willy-nilly” forfeitures. Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville was quoted in the Times Free Press article  as noting that  the bill contains only one of the necessary steps required to rein in civil asset forfeitures: the first, which has already been implemented, was more reporting and audit requirements on what assets authorities may seized and where the assets go, the next step is not only shutting off the ability to hand these matters to the feds, but also requiring a conviction before a person’s property is taken.

If you are facing criminal charges, you want to have the strong support of an aggressive Franklin criminal defense attorney on your side to assert and protect your rights.

You are welcome to contact the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates today, or call 615-977-9370 to schedule an appointment with a knowledgeable Franklin criminal defense attorney today. We also have offices in Brentwood and Columbia to serve you. We are here to help you.