Times Free Press wrote:Carter, Gardenhire bill imposes new rules on law enforcement's use of civil asset forfeiture
NASHVILLE — Tennessee law enforcement's power to seize cash, vehicles and other property from suspects never actually charged with a crime would face new restrictions under legislation moving in the General Assembly.
Under the bill, if someone is actually arrested by authorities for the commission of a crime, say transporting illegal drugs, the procedure "pretty much stays where it is," said Carter, noting the legislation does shorten procedural times and increase notices.
But the major part of the bill, he said, is that it makes legal distinctions between "those charged with a crime from those not charged with a crime."
"Those that have been accused of a crime and their assets are seized goes to the 'left' and those persons whose property was seized — and they were not present and apparently had nothing to do with it — go through entirely separate, far more strenuous due process requirements" before their property can be permanently taken, Carter said.
For persons who are not present but their property, such as a vehicle, is seized as a result of someone using it in commission of a crime like transporting drugs, "you have a great number of added, new due process rights in this bill," Carter noted.
Under the bill, if someone isn't arrested, the case must be held and concluded within 45 days. Official notice must be given within five days that the property has been seized.
The bill also specifies that "money is not illegal," Carter said. He noted that while that may "seem silly to you," oftentimes when he was a judge "people would say, 'Look, we pulled a guy over in a '73 Dodge and he had $8,900 on him. It is not illegal to have money."
Under the bill, the state would have the "burden of proving the money is illegal," he said.
Carter said he believes the most important provision is that property owners not present at the seizure must be notified. And a "full-blown due process hearing" must be held, he noted.