Answers to questions about Asset Forfeitures and Seizures is available at the following link:
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Click here to access a free online version of The Tennessee Code. To find a particular statute, enter the statute number (i.e. 39-17-1351) into the search box at the top left of the page and click the 'search' button. That will give you a direct link to the statute you want to read.
Asset Forfeiture Statute: T.C.A. 40-33-201 et seq.
Local agencies responsible for direct law enforcement seize property consisting of vehicles, money, real property, and other miscellaneous property. The agency then sends the paperwork to the Legal Division to process as jurisdiction has been given to the Commissioner of Safety for the disposition of this property. Property may be seized for possession of narcotics, illegal or prescription. Vehicles may be seized for driving on a driver’s license which has been revoked for driving under the influence and for driving under the influence for a second or subsequent time. Both DUI charges must have occurred within five years of each other.
The Notice of Seizure and Forfeiture of Conveyances form is completed by the Officer at the time the property is seized. He gives this to the person in possession of the property being seized as a receipt to show that the property is, in fact, being seized. He is then responsible for taking this Notice of Seizure and a completed Forfeiture Warrant to a local Judge to show probable cause for the seizure. If the Judge finds probable cause for the seizure, he signs the Warrant.
Once the Warrant is signed, the Notice of Seizure form and the signed Warrant are submitted to the Legal Division. Notice that a Forfeiture Warrant has been signed is sent by certified mail to anyone reasonably located who may have an interest in this property. They are responsible for filing a petition requesting a hearing within thirty (30) days of receiving the letter and signing the certified mail receipt.
Once a petition is filed, the case is set for hearing to determine the disposition of the property. Notice of the hearing date is sent to all parties who have filed a petition about thirty (30) days before the hearing is set. This hearing will be presided over by an Administrative Law Judge out of the Secretary of State Administrative Procedures Division. The State has prosecuting attorneys for these hearings. Claimants may hire their own defense attorney, at their expense, or may choose to represent themselves.
If a lien holder is listed on the title of a seized vehicle and a claim is filed by this lien holder only, there is not a hearing set. The State’s Attorney will review the case and verify the lien. An Order will be then be issued forfeiting the property to the seizing agency subject to the lien. This allows the vehicle to be returned to the lien holder to satisfy the lien, or for the Agency which seized the vehicle to keep the vehicle and pay the lien holder their respective lien (being the lien at time of seizure less any payments made).
On the hearing date, the State’s Prosecuting Attorney and the Officer who seized the property will first try to negotiate an out of court settlement for the case with the claimants. If no settlement can be reached or if all parties are not present, the case will be continued to a new hearing date, probably about three months in the future. If a settlement is reached, the State’s Attorney will prepare a Proposed Civil Settlement Form. The parties will all sign showing agreement with the settlement, and an Order will be prepared in accordance with the civil settlement agreement.
At a second date, if no settlement can be reached and all parties are present, the case will proceed to a hearing before the Administrative Law Judge. The Judge will normally take a case under advisement and render his decision at a later date, usually in sixty (60) to ninety (90) days. It is possible that a case may be continued for cause by agreement at any stage of the hearing; however, most continuances will require a motion to continue and a determination by the Administrative Law Judge.
The Judge’s ruling is normally for the property to be sold at public auction, put into service, or returned to the claimant. Public auctions are the responsibility of the law enforcement agency that seized the vehicle.
If either party chooses to appeal an adverse decision of the Judge, they may do so by filing an initial appeal with the Commissioner of Safety in Nashville.
Further appeals may be had by moving the case into the Chancery Court of Davidson County, in Nashville, only.