Newsbrief: No Asset Forfeiture for Misdemeanor Drug Charges, Tennessee Says 10/8/04

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For years, Tennessee law enforcement officers routinely seized the vehicles and other property of people possessing even small amounts of drugs. But a July 9 opinion by Attorney General Paul Summers has put a stop to that practice, and the law enforcement establishment is grumbling, the Knoxville News-Sentinel reported.

In his July opinion, Summers found that "the mere presence of a misdemeanor amount of a controlled substance cannot trigger the seizure of a vehicle," nor can a forfeiture action start with "simple possession of a small amount of drugs or drug paraphernalia."

That opinion prompted Joe Bartlett, the attorney who runs the asset forfeiture program for the state Department of Safety, to complain to the News-Sentinel that it would cause an increase in low-level drug use. "I think we're going the wrong way," Bartlett said. "You're going to see a lot more use of misdemeanor amounts because their property won't be at risk."

While some big city police departments said the ban on seizing vehicles for misdemeanor drug cases would not make much difference because most of their seizures came in felony cases, one small town law man said the move would result in lesser drug fund revenues for small departments. "That's going to definitely cut into it quite a bit," said Alcoa Assistant Police Chief Ken Beeler.

One defense attorney contacted by the News-Sentinel said he feared law enforcement would try to get around the ban by charging people with felonies when they previously would have charged them with misdemeanors. "They could charge it as a felony and let everyone sort it out when they get to court," Ken Irvine said. But by then, he added, the property could have already been forfeited in a civil procedure.

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Issue #357, 10/8/04 Editorial: A Tragedy in the Capital | Medical Marijuana Activists Besiege HHS, Demand Rescheduling | Drug Policy and the Presidential Election -- Introduction | The Election I: Bush and Kerry on Drugs: Past Records and Platform Planks | The Election II: Drug Reformers on Kerry and Bush, Nader and Badnarik | The Election III: DRCNet Interview: Independent Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader | The Election IV: DRCNet Interview: Michael Badnarik, Libertarian Party Presidential Candidate (repeat) | Newsbrief: Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Critical Federal Sentencing Cases | Newsbrief: Needle Exchange Bill Passes New Jersey Assembly | Newsbrief: Protests Rise over Award as Thai Prime Minister Prepares for New Round of Drug War | Newsbrief: Bolivia's Chapare Cocaleros Sign Historic Agreement with Government | Newsbrief: DEA Pulls Prescription Pain Medicine FAQs Without Explanation | Newsbrief: Hemp Crops in Western Australia Stymied By Licensing Requirements | Newsbrief: Atlanta Cops Use Forfeited Funds to Buy Bigger Guns | Newsbrief: No Asset Forfeiture for Misdemeanor Drug Charges, Tennessee Says | Newsbrief: Texas DA Says Doctors Must Turn In Drug-Using Pregnant Women | Newsbrief: Another Killer Cop Walks Free | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | This Week in History | Administrative Assistant: Part-Time Job Opportunity at DRCNet | The Reformer's Calendar
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