Grant’s Rants: ‘Changing Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws Must Be Done Now Because It Will Reinforce Tennessee’s Confidence and Trust in Law Enforcement Institutions’


Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed official guest host Grant Henry in the studio for another edition of Grant’s Rants.


Every dollar of Terry Rowland had saved over a lifetime. It was stacked into a large Tupperware container. $82,373. At 79 he was aging and worried about keeping cash on hand. So during one of his daughter’s visits, her name is Rebecca Brown, he asked her to open a joint banking account.

Rebecca was catching a flight home from Pittsburgh airport early the next day, and she didn’t have time to stop by a bank, so she decided she would just take the cash with her. She confirmed on a government website that it is legal to carry any amount of cash with you on a domestic flight.

So she took this $82,000 into a carry-on. But just minutes before departure in late August, a DEA agent met her at a busy gate and questioned her about the cash, which, of course, had showed up in a security scan. He insisted Rebecca put her father, Terry, on the phone to confirm her story.

Rebecca said her father, who was suffering with mental decline, unfortunately, was unable to verify some of these details. She said the DEA agent just handed her the phone and said, your stories don’t match. We’re seizing the cash. And the DEA agent took her father’s entire life savings, all $82,373 right there on the spot.

A practice called civil asset forfeiture is what created the scenario for the story that you just heard. Civil asset forfeiture is the practice that allows police to seize your property if they suspect you of a crime, even if you’re never actually convicted of that crime.

Now, oddly enough, the legal proceedings were brought against the seized property and not against the individual. And I’m telling everyone here right now, this morning, that it’s time to change this practice in the state of Tennessee.

Of the $15 million worth of forfeited property each year in Tennessee and the $140 million forfeited since 2009 in Tennessee, Tennessee law enforcement keeps 100 percent of those proceeds. It doesn’t go to some general state fund that we can all use. I’ll say that again.

Each individual police precinct keeps the proceeds of the property seized from potentially innocent citizens. This creates a perverse incentive for law enforcement to pad their budgets to constitutionally suspect means.

Tennessee law enforcement should be fully funded through a transparent budget process backed by the voice of the people. It’s time to properly fund the police in civil asset forfeiture. Here’s a hashtag that I hope we can all get behind #Fundthepolice.

Convicted criminals should have their property taken. I’ll say that again. Convicted criminals should have their property taken. However, seizing people’s property without convicting them of a crime creates perverse incentives and damages community relations, making an officer’s job harder in the long run.

As recently as 2017, Justice Clarence Thomas said the following about civil asset forfeiture, “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 which threaten individuals property and due process rights and frequently targets the poor and other groups least able to defend their interest in forfeiture proceedings.”

So you hear what Justice Thomas is saying. Arguably the most conservative justice on the Supreme Court supports changing our civil asset forfeiture laws. And if that wasn’t enough, guess who introduced this concept of civil asset forfeiture to America at the federal level? Guess which elected official introduced the Comprehensive Forfeiture Act in 1983?

None other than Joe Biden. Yes, that Joe Biden. Then Senator Joe Biden carried the law that gave federal agents nearly unlimited power to seize assets from private citizens. So hear me now. Joe Biden created it. Justice Clarence Thomas hates it.

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 property. Changing our civil asset forfeiture laws must be done now because it will safeguard our fundamental due process and property rights.

It’s the constitutionally correct thing to do. Changing civil asset forfeiture laws must be done now because it will reinforce Tennesseean’s confidence and trust in law enforcement institutions.

It’s the sociologically correct thing to do. And changing civil asset forfeiture laws must be done now because it will protect the vulnerable individuals least able to defend their rights. It’s the morally correct thing to do.

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.

















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