Tennessee Legislators Scared to Fight Civil Asset Forfeiture Abuse, Says State Rep. Martin Daniel

Members of the Tennessee General Assembly won’t tackle civil asset forfeiture abuse because they fear a backlash from law enforcement, said State Rep. Martin Daniel  (R-Knoxville).

Daniel serves on the legislature’s Civil Justice Subcommittee.

Daniel told The Tennessee Star Monday that for the past three years he’s filed bills “that would have substantially reformed the problem.”

Daniel said his colleagues don’t show his bill much, if any, support.

And there’s a reason for that, Daniel said.

“Law enforcement likes to have this revenue, I would assume, because there’s not a lot of accountability and transparency. They can use this money to spend it any way they want to without the legislature’s or a county commission’s oversight,” Daniel said.

According to Justiceactionnetwork.org, Tennessee law enforcement officers can use civil asset forfeiture to seize and sell people’s property. They can do this “based only on their suspicion that it has been involved in criminal activity, without having to charge the citizen with a crime.”

Law enforcement officers can sell or auction this property to supplement their budgets. Officials in Tennessee, Justiceactionnetwork.org went on to say, have seized and forfeited more than $85.9 million dollars in property between 2009 and 2014.

These same law enforcement officers need more accountability, Martin said.

“They (law enforcement) make the case that this is essential for them to continue the losing war on drugs and to provide safety to the people of Tennessee they are charged with. Legislators buy into this, and the rhetoric is that ‘If you vote for civil asset forfeiture reform then you are against law enforcement,’ which is totally false. You can vote for reform and civil forfeiture and still support law enforcement, but they frame it that way. A lot of legislators are hesitant to go there.”

According to the Tennessee General Assembly’s website, Daniel’s bill, if ever passed into law, would require a district attorney general to review the underlying circumstances of a seizure to determine if probable cause exists to justify forfeiture. When appropriate, the DA would file a motion to dismiss the application for forfeiture warrant, upon which the court shall dismiss the application and return the seized property.

Legislators sent Daniel’s latest reform bill to summer study, according to the General Assembly’s website.

“More than 24 states have comprehensively reformed the practice of civil forfeiture,” Daniel said.

“But we, in this very red state, can get zero done.”

According to a recent poll on Justiceactionnetwork.org, 80 percent of voters who know what civil asset forfeiture is said they want reform.

“Law enforcement says this is designed to prevent drug trafficking by the cartels and the mules that are carrying these drugs and this money,” Daniel said.

“Well, you take a close look at it, and you learn the average size of the seizure and forfeiture is only $2,200 – that is not cartel money.”

– – –
Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected] 






Related posts

8 Thoughts to “Tennessee Legislators Scared to Fight Civil Asset Forfeiture Abuse, Says State Rep. Martin Daniel”

  1. […] Daniel told The Tennessee Star in April that members of the Tennessee General Assembly won’t tackle civil asset forfeiture abuse because they fear a backlash from law enforcement. […]

  2. Fred

    Instead of ‘to protect and to serve’, the police new motto is to ‘pillage and plunder’. Next step-CPS from Syfy ‘Continuum’ . There is more truth in this show, applicable to Americas current state of law enforcement, than any public figure would EVER admit to.

  3. Anonymous

    The police in this country morphed into the Praetorian Guard so slowly I didn’t even notice…

  4. Horatio Bunce

    “Well, you take a close look at it, and you learn the average size of the seizure and forfeiture is only $2,200 – that is not cartel money.”

    Nope, but it certainly is FELONY THEFT. And since it isn’t accounted for, how do you know this number is truthful? It is especially hypocritical that the Republican Super-Duper Majority continues in hand-wringing over a heartbeat bill that they “might” get sued on so won’t bring to a vote, but continue to collude with the armed robbers with badges aligning themselves against the law-abiding with unconstitutional infringements on keeping and bearing arms and being secure in their persons and property despite clear constitutional violations and rulings by the US Supreme Court.

    TN “law enforcement” is clearly on the wrong side of the U.S. Constitution and due process and even the U.S. Supreme court rulings at this point. I guess they aren’t that worried about federal lawsuits after all if it means more UNTAXED money in their pockets.

    You can’t win a war on drugs when you won’t even bring criminal charges against the alleged offenders. If “law enforcement” actually accomplished its mission of winning the “war”, then there wouldn’t be any cash for them to steal. But since they have already proven willing and able to steal from innocent people in Tennessee with no drug history or involvement, the “war on drugs” is just an excuse for their armed robbery.

    The legislators that aid and abet these armed robbers with their bills to further hamstring the innocent victims in recovering their stolen property are equally guilty of misprision of felony.

  5. Surly Curmudgen

    So end the war on drugs! I favor decriminalization of any and all substances anyone might want to put on or in their body.
    Do not hinder the stupid when they are being stupid.
    Utter stupidity is nature’s way of cleansing the gene pool.
    That having been said, ending the war on drugs and treating the addictions of those wanting treatment is a far more sane course of action and saves an incredible amount of taxpayers money.

  6. CMinTN

    It’s pure theft and I will not comply with it. Got to be stupid to tell them if you are carrying cash or anything else. Make them do their job and get a proper warrant. Do not enable them to steal from you.

  7. TNinfidel

    Corruption reigns supreme in our dying republic. The gang in blue is their own little fiefdom and accountable to no one.

  8. Bill Delzell

    Best of luck in your efforts, Representative Daniel! Law enforcement should have to show written cause for seeking to confiscate one’s property. The fact that law enforcement does not have to charge the property owner with a crime makes this practice all the more obscene. We want police protection and public safety, but we also want due process: for the police to show cause; and to notify the public how they will use any money they confiscate, if such confiscation of an individual property is deemed legal.