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Tennessee asset forfeiture: What is it, and where do funds go?

Let's just say that, based on recurring adverse news reports and red-faced police backtracking, asset forfeiture is unlikely to ever escape widespread public wrath and an enduring perception that it is linked with law enforcement excess and corruption.

What exactly is the asset forfeiture program administered under the U.S. Department of Justice?

Adherents of the program say that it admirably checks crime by enabling federal task forces and local/state police departments across the country to confiscate gains realized from criminal conduct (such as cash, cars, boats and even homes) and keep them through permanent forfeiture.

Critics of the initiative -- and there are many -- conversely contend that asset forfeiture is fundamentally nothing more than an asset grab cloaked in authority by myriad statutory laws. They believe, as noted in one recent news report on the subject, that there is "an inherent profit incentive in asset forfeiture" that entices police "to fish for seizures to pad their budgets."

And pad they do, as well as spend forfeiture-related monies improperly occasionally. The above-cited media piece notes a recent DOJ reprimand aimed at Tennessee authorities, charging them with spending more than $100,000 on banquet tickets, catering and retail food items.

Stories from many states reveal, as we note on our Knoxville criminal defense website at Hindman & Lanzon, that asset forfeiture "is often a ruthless legal process" pursuant to which citizens often lose their properly permanently and despite no proved link between seized assets and alleged criminal activity.

That risk of permanent loss is huge, indeed, especially if a citizen on the receiving end of asset forfeiture does not respond in a timely and proactive manner.

It is important to contest forfeiture and to immediately demand a hearing. A proven criminal defense attorney can help a client take those steps and make aggressive efforts to reclaim seized assets.

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