Tennessee lawmakers are prepared to consider a major overhaul of laws that allow police to take cash off of drivers to fund their agencies.
Rep. Barrett Rich's bill, as drafted, would completely outlaw the practice known as civil asset forfeiture. That practice allows police to take people's cash or property without charging them with a crime.
While Rich didn't believe he had the votes to go that far, he said that there is an emerging consensus over other reforms to protect the innocent.
A prime example, Rich said, is the New Jersey man who had $22,000 cash taken from him during a traffic stop. An officer took George Reby's money based on his suspicion that it might be drug money.
Rep. Rich said that story "opened a lot of people's eyes" and has created a chance for reform.
"If we arrest a criminal, they are given an opportunity to have a preliminary hearing," the lawmaker said.
"I think that when the government does a taking of property, they should be given that opportunity immediately to be given at least hearing in front of an elected judge, a real judge."
Rich added that he wants to make sure that police are still allowed to take real drug money off the streets, while protecting the rights of the innocent.
Let's hope. When police can seize property with impugnity, then things have gone way too far. Hopefully, other states like Georgia will follow Tennessee's lead in trying to reign in this growing problem.
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